A first

21 June, 2009

I finished the Sunday NYT crossword puzzle! On Sunday! I finished one once before, but it took a few days of revisits.

I am pretty psyched about this. Growing up, the Sunday puzzles (NYT and the Chicago papers) were a family affair. My mom and I would work on one until we got stuck, and then we’d swap. (We’d ask my stepdad for sports clues, but the answer we got depended on his mood–he is prone to making things up. Thanks for giving me the right answer today, though!)

Now to read the, you know, news.



7 June, 2009

OK, take two.

So, how you doin’?  Anyone with me still in their RSS, please comment.  Me, I’ve been fine.

Fine! Ha!  Let’s see, my last real post, not counting Cubs angst…around a year ago…hmm, not as bad as I’d thought.

Too much has happened for a wordy catch-up post.  The bullet list of major recent changes:

  • got back with Reaganite, shacked up, moved to new neighborhood, downsized cats to one
  • left job/career/identity of 10 years for new job/career/identity
  • left old job’s 15″ MacBookPro for new iPhone, iMac
  • denouement of family suicide #2 (terminal cancer) included modest financial security
  • sister: bought a horse, moved to Montana, is now leaving Montana
  • parents: both moved to Kalamazoo (that may have happened before my hiatus)

It’s been a lot to deal with. Work is the biggest adjustment. I work for the government now. I’m no longer a Scientist. Work doesn’t have to rule my life–there is just not enough to it for that. But it’s surprisingly hard to change old habits.

While not everyone had to have a blog back in the day, in the last year twitter and facebook seem to have become de rigeur for everyone. I’m there (under this handle, of course). But neither are quite my form. For one, you can’t do them on the Metro with an iPhone. And it drives me NUTS that I can’t categorize incoming updates.  To have posts from good buddies buried amidst posts from people I haven’t spoken to in 15 years is frustrating.  Not to mention the twitter phenomenon of following businesses, blogs, celebrities, etc.  Is there a way to do this that I’ve missed? Can anyone advise?

So back to blogging. I think I will have a pattern of only lightly edited midi-posts, maybe an occasional longer one.  You can expect to see

  • more Metro observations/griping
  • evolving obsessions
  • more work-life balance observations/griping


What I got

14 March, 2008

In early November of 2000, I was in New Orleans at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference. My boyfriend had come along, and we were staying in a beautiful bed-and-breakfast that, needless to say, was NOT on the conference hotels list. It was the internet boom–we ate so well that, to this day, our friends are sick of hearing about this trip. The election was going on–you may recall the election of November 2000 and how, er, stimulating it was. It was my first conference, my first presentation, and I was utterly psyched. SFN is infamous for its size (over 25,000 attendees) and its scope (“neuroscience” can mean almost anything, and at this conference, it does). All the posters and science to see and absorb…and then in the evening, all the ancillary events. Panels, interest groups, receptions, and I belonged there. Everything was possible.

As was my wont, I went to a career panel. I knew even during my undergrad years that academia was not for me, and that I was interested in an “alternative career” (a disgusting ivory tower phrase for the outside world, IMO). Of course, being an idiot who went to grad school for only the dimmest of reasons, I had no idea what I wanted beyond that. So I tried to go to a lot of panels and read a lot of books about “alternative careers.” This panel was not specifically about that–it was intended to present the diversity of options that would lay before me someday in the distant future. Good enough. I vaguely remember that it had a representative from the classic academia tenure track, a science writer, and somebody else–probably a researcher/administrator from industry or biotech.

But I CLEARLY remember the man who represented science policy. He described his days as a science and technology policy fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He had worked in the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, which did what it sounds like it’d do: assess technology for Congress. An intertube describes it this way: “The OTA was created in 1972 to provide Congress objective analyses of major public policy issues related to scientific and technological change.” A Congresscritter would come to them and ask for a report on any topic under the sun. They’d research it and write it up in a nonpartisan fashion. Another quote:

Holt pointed out how many of the OTA reports, from over a decade ago, are still timely and pertinent, including reports like “Retiring old cars: Programs to save gasoline and reduce emissions,” “Renewing our energy future,” “Potential environmental impacts of bioenergy crop production,” “Innovation and commercialization of emerging technologies,” and “Testing in America’s schools: Asking the right questions.”

This sounded like pure heaven. Then, as now, I was a dilettante, interested in too many things, and I was beginning to see just how fucking stupid I had been to go to graduate school, the entire POINT of which is to train you in specialization. The idea that I could grow up and use my prospective science and research skillz to tackle all sorts of different projects–and for a purpose? To a specific end? (I was also beginning to realize that my penchant for efficiency might have been useful day-to-day, but could never have a place in research as a lifelong endeavour.) Turns out the guy was there specifically to promote the AAAS Science Policy Fellowship that had gotten him to OTA. One needed one’s Ph.D. in hand to apply. Still, I took the application packet and read it cover to cover.

I did the same thing at my next conference, and the next, and at local panels, and eventually I was going to panels and I already knew everything they were saying about the fellowships. When I’d network and discuss science policy, I’d hear about the fellowships and how many doors they opened. In dark research moments I’d read about science policy and notice that nearly everything I read was written by a former fellow. While writing my dissertation, I found an ad for a related job in the back of the journal Science, cut it out and taped it in the “escapism” corner of my desk, near the photos of Paris and the ocean at Sharm el-Sheikh (a resort in Egypt where my sister had spent a summer). When considering jobs, the fact that my current job would put me in DC, where I would have top networking opportunities and learn incredible amounts purely by osmosis, was a consideration.

When I got here, I picked every brain I knew, developed my network, picked their brains, and then asked THEM for people whose brains I could pick. And picked them. All of them said the same thing. You must apply for the AAAS fellowship, it’s invaluable, it’s great, it’s perfect experience and perfect for the resume. They all said it was very competitive and then said they had gotten it on the first try. They all took great pride in telling me a particular insider “secret” about the system, such that when I spoke to a new person and I heard them get quieter and conspiratorial, I knew what was coming. I acted surprised each time.

The time finally came: my career had reached a turning point. I was on top of my field and had to either fight to stay there or bow out. The deadlines and start dates and end dates of my commitments and the fellowship lined up perfectly. So I applied. I came out to my boss as an alternative-career lover. I converted valuable research-world patrons into references in fields where they were virtually unknown. I spent valuable research time, time that our rivals were using to do science, writing my application. I doubted my decision when research went well, stood by it when not. I wrote and wrote and wrote about myself (the app was an essay, a CV, another essay, and a biography). I asked for help from aforementioned network. When they started giving me contradictory advice based on their personalities, I knew I had worked it for all it was worth. I sent it in and I waited. I got an interview and one last hoop: write a one-page memo about something and in the interview you will present it and we will ask questions. I sat down to write the memo and I realized that, after all these years of saying “I want to do science policy,” I didn’t know what “policy” meant. I figured it out. I sent it in. I interviewed.

I got the email at noon today: I got the fellowship. Now it’s 8. And I have no idea what to do now.


14 March, 2008



31 January, 2008

I signed up for a leadership course, taking place next week, for which I had to take the Myers-Briggs Temperament Sorter. I went in today for a little meeting thingy where we got the results and got talked to about them. (Very interesting, actually.)

So here I am on the internets, and I am looking at lists of careers for which I am well suited:

  • Bounty hunter.
  • Private investigator.
  • CIA or FBI agent.

So basically, I was meant to spy on people and carry guns. I KNEW IT! Good thing I went to a liberal arts women’s college!

Along those lines, here’s some things I should NOT be:

  • Poet. (Don’t I know it.)
  • Child psychologist. (“GROW UP, KID!”)
  • Video editor. (Should anyone be this?)

Also? Photographer. Hey! What’re you trying to say, anonymous poorly-designed webpage??!

Interestingly, the “yes” list has “professor” while the “no” list has “English professor.” How very true.  (It was because of an English professor that I majored in the sciences.)

I am also not meant to own a bookstore.  THAT I don’t get.  I mean, I’d get to keep a gun behind the counter, wouldn’t I?  For all those bookstore holdups?

I reeeeeeeeally try not to rag on DC for its weather-related skittishness. It’s just too goddamned easy, and boring. But, come the fuck on. Did people always make this big a deal out of 20 degree weather? 20 DEGREES. We’re not traversing Antarctica here. Wear a fucking hat.

It’s times like these I feel most Midwestern. I have five trusty Weather Dashboard widgets set up, one for each place in the country where I have family. The “Stepfather” one tells me that it’s 10degF in Michigan. The “Grandmother, Aunt, Uncle, and 3 Cousins” one tells me that it’s 1degF in Wisconsin. Now THAT is some weather, people. One fricking degree. My cousins — ages 7, 5, and 1 — are being raised RIGHT. That’s not “you can’t go out and play, because I’m cold” weather. That’s “you can’t go out to play because you will get frostbite” weather.

I am sure my sister disagrees. She never felt the cold to be character-building, although that may have been because in the Midwest she bark-coughs like a seal from November to March. So she moved to Northern California. Where it’s now 20 degrees. Neener, seester. (And to round everyone out, it’s also 20 degrees where my mom is. She was raised in the Midwest but is now in Connecticut. How bout it, momb? Are they wimpy about 20 degrees there too?)

I was unfortunate this evening, when, failing to turn the football game off in a timely fashion, a local newscast bounced some photons off my retinae. No worries, first-degree burns only, I changed it quickly…but not before I got a nice strong dose of schadenfreude watching a newsperson interview a shivering frat boy, wearing on his head only a baseball cap, who admitted that it is too cold to wear on his head only a baseball cap. I hope his boyz don’t see him on the news, because based on the aggressively-worn T-shirts I saw the frat boys sporting on the streets last night, admitting to feeling cold practically makes him gay.

In very sad news, my text messaging appears to be broken. I’m not sure how many days now. I am lost without text messages. Seriously. My Google Calendar texts me reminders (and God knows I need a lot of reminders, what with this sieve I call a brain). I already missed at least one, and I suspect two, social engagements because people are used to not having to call me. So, I apologize to all of youse whose messages I have missed. It probably hurts me more than it hurts you!


No point in regaling you with the story of my holiday travels. You don’t care, and nothing bad/funny/interesting happened to me, anyway. So I’ll just tell you about the wine bar at BWI that restored my soul:

Wine bar at BWI

Click through and you can also read about how much I love Southwest. I even love the unassigned seats!


As I deplaned* at BWI, a boy no more than three years old caught sight of me. His eyes went wide, he pointed and yelled at the top of his lungs “aaaaah!!” Disconcerting. Then again, each time more and more excited: “Aaaaaaah!! AAAAAH!!”

I was the first adult around to figure it out: I was wearing my red Incredibles logo shirt.

I saw it last year, but you know, you forget exactly how it goes, and these things make bigger impressions on kids anyway. Having happened to catch it on network tonight**, however, I had a new appreciation of just how impressed that kid was.


*What a dumb word.

**This is the first time I have watched a non-“Ten Commandments” movie on network this millennium. Or longer.