science... always harder than you thought it would be...

Quote of the day:

Every problem is like an infinite goldmine of hard.

And so I continue to muddle though, working on this thing that was just supposed to be quick and easy, but turned into a way bigger thing than I wanted right now. Thankfully hubby can help!


Il Neige

Yes. It is snowing. Did we just get rid of this stuff? Ugh.


Lest we forget...

Today is Remembrance day (Veteran's day in the US).

I have always taken a moment to mark Remembrance day. This comes primarily as a result of growing up in a military family, but also because my grandfather fought in World war II. I typically attended Remembrance day ceremonies with my parents, and of course it was a day of reflection on what so many sacrificed in war for us.

However, regardless of your feelings about war and military, I hope you will take a moment today to reflect on the many sacrifices our parents, grandparents and many more before them have made to give us the lives we have today. The world is as it is today because of those decisions and efforts, and it's really not such a bad place. We also have a long way to go and that is our responsibility now.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

~Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army


CO2 eating rocks? Cool... but wait a minute...

So, now that I have a PhD, I should probably try to say intelligent things more often. Or maybe I should do my corrections... nah.

Anyway, I saw this article: Scientists say a rock can soak up carbon dioxide, and I thought "Cool! I mean, we should still stop burning around in giant unnecessary vehicles, but in the meantime, this sounds interesting. I'm going to blog this!"

But then my critical faculties came online again (I guess I'm not hung-over enough), and it occurred to me that this is about equivalent to burying your garbage/nuclear waste/toxic shizz-nizzle. So, let's see if everyone is with me here... If a rock absorbs CO2... at some point it has to release it again, right?

So, maybe burning coal and just shoving those emissions away in a rock for someone to deal with later... not such a good idea?

Many companies are hoping to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by siphoning off large amounts of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and storing it underground.

Because I'm pretty sure we should check into this...
That method could require thousands of miles of pipelines and nobody is sure whether the potentially dangerous gas would leak back out into the atmosphere in the future.

before we smother our future progeny with our procrastination regarding fossil fuels rather than just getting on with doing things better. :(


That's Dr. to you.

I am done. That will be Dr. physics*chick from now on.

Must go drink now. Details maybe later... maybe fuzzy...


Defending your thesis... to study? or not to study?

So, I'm t-6 days to D-day (yes, it took them 3 months to get me a defence date... no, I do not want to talk about it yet.. there is a big post on the mess of all that brewing), and the question I keep getting is "what are you doing to prepare for your defence?". My answer so far has been mostly "Um, I have some slides?" with a subtext in my head of "I wrote the damn thesis, I think I know what's in there". But it's started to freak me out. I guess I'll re-read a little about a few peripheral topics, but beyond that and checking my talk for timing, I don't think I'm going to do anything besides set an alarm to make sure I get up. I hate studying (reading & learning things, that's different), it makes me nervous, and nervous is the last thing I want to be.

So here's my question to you internet scientists out there:

What (did you/will you/think you will/see others) do to prepare?


Some really high productivity procrastination...

So, I should be working on a paper, but I'm having trouble decyphering "good data" (ie. that was acquired under the intended conditions) from "bad data" (ie. that may not have been acquired under the intended conditions and is therefore really freakin' wonky). I'll leave the debate about distinguishing "good data" from "bad data" and the validity of so doing for another time... maybe this paper isn't going anywhere...

Anyhow, in my preoccupied state (come on Canadian dollar... go up... go UUUUP!!!) I decided to look at Science Careers to see if I could find hubby a job (totally related to the whole dollar issue... more on that and my many bureaucratic frustrations another time...) and got side tracked looking at some of the career articles. In particular, Maximizing Productivity and Recognition, Part 3: Developing a Research Plan, which is actually something I've been thinking about since I wrote my applications for postdoctoral scholarships. The article is well-written and well-structured, so I won't repeat it here. Go check it out. I'm going to read the other two later. We can all use a publication productivity boost, and well, I've tried collaborations a few times and have certainly learned a few things about what can go awry... but I think I could use the help in making a successful link.

  1. Maximizing Productivity and Recognition, Part 1: Publication, Citation, and Impact
  2. Maximizing Productivity and Recognition, Part 2: Collaboration and Networking
  3. Maximizing Productivity and Recognition, Part 3: Developing a Research Plan


Meme-time: 6 random things about me

Tagged a while back by the lovely but disgruntled Julie...

The rules:

At long last and in no particular order:

  1. I am deathly afraid of anything that stings. Bees, wasps, hornets, jellyfish (which are gross anyway), and probably scorpions though I've never met one. This deep seated phobia most likely results from the fact that I have never been stung combined with all those awful reports about killer bees and too many bee segments on sesame street when I was but a wee lass. Now, at the ripe old age of 28, I leap up and run away, usually flailing and screaming like an imbecile at the sight of such a creature. It is incredibly embarrassing. ... and now I have shared it with the entire internet...
  2. A list within a list: 6 places I love and would run off to in a heart-beat, again in no particular order because that would require too much thought and not be very random. Halifax, Chamonix-Mont Blanc, Bermuda, Paris, San Gimignano, San Sebastian. I would like to see: Rome, Kyoto, all of New Zealand, Hawaii, New York (no! never been!), Crete.
  3. I very seriously considered doing a degree in Music. I started playing violin when I was 8 years old "because my friends were doing it" and played seriously all through school and undergrad. I still play occasionally, though not enough to keep my skills up. I told myself that I could always pick it up again later, but that I wasn't likely to go back to physics if I stopped.
  4. I very seriously considered not doing a PhD. In fact I moved all my stuff across the country... and then moved it back when I changed my mind. I hated grad school. Then I realized that was normal, and actually I did like research (just not grad school).
  5. I learned to knit when I was about 9. I wanted to learn when I saw my grandmother knitting in her chair once when we were visiting when I was very small. I have a vague fuzzy memory of sitting on the floor looking up at what she was doing while watching her soaps and realizing she was making something real out of yarn, and as with everything at that age, well, I wanted to do it too. She said I was too young but promised to teach me when I was older. Unfortunately she didn't get the chance as she passed away not too long after, but my mother kept the bargain a few years later and I knit a scarf for my Dad for Christmas as my first real project. I was pretty proud of myself (for making it and managing to keep it a surprise!), and pretty sure my Nanny would approve. :) I didn't keep up knitting then, but the skills returned quickly when I picked up again a few years ago to pass the sometimes long waiting times in the lab.*
  6. I cannot eat tomatoes. I'm not allergic, but I have such a strong dislike that I cannot swallow them. This causes problems as most people, like my husband who went ahead and cooked a whole lasagne for me without asking first, assume that everyone likes tomatoes. I once even had a tomato nightmare: I dreamed that I was eating raw potatoes out of a sack (don't ask where that came from... no I don't eat raw potatoes either), and then I pulled out a tomato and *shudder* took a giant chomp out of it! blaegh.

And now to pass it on:

  1. Styleygeek@Fumbling towards geekdom
  2. Connie@physicsknits
  3. Dr. Brazen Hussy@What the hell is wrong with you? (best blog title ever)
  4. Dr. Isis@On becoming a domestic and laboratory goddess
  5. Twigs@Gathering Twigs
  6. you!!!

*ah, yes, this is how a lot of my knitting projects get completed, sitting in front of the computer as data is being acquired. it is a great way to pass time when you need to do something requiring little to no thought every 8 min. *knit, knit, knit, click, click, save, click knit, knit...* this is an excellent strategy for passing the time and getting knitting done, even if it is somewhat awkward when your supervisor walks in with an important visitor and starts to ask if you are making a whole sweater. sadly, since writing, my knitting productivity has drastically decreased.


what we do every night pinky... try to take over the world!

Pinky and The Brain

more lol celebs!

Who'd a thunk it, right?

BTW, I used to love Pinky and the Brain


Post-doc loc: hint #3

Campanile, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

Ok, so it was already guessed, but for the rest of you, this probably does it. :)

I'm a-movin' ta California!


Quotes of the day

Fitting with the events of the day:
Me: "The days of everybody's dog having 3 iPods is over"
Hubby: "Yup. The last thing an economist wants to hear: 'I can do without it'"

Totally random:
ISS: worst apartment ever. 3 1/2 without gravity, "cozy", limited access to transit.

random bullets of travel...

I am just returned and still in a jet lag fogged haze from a week and a half in Europe for a conference and a little vacay. Since travel tends to bring up some of the oddest things, I present random bullets of travel (with hubby):

  • Hubby looks around and says to me: "Madrid is a going concern." ... Really? I think it probably has been for centuries now.
  • To airlines (especially StupidJet... I mean EasyJet): Either have a system or don't. Preferably have one. "Free seating" is not a "feature".
  • It is possible to survive for 12 days on only 45min of internet (that cost 7.50 Euros)... but you don't blog, and don't get much work done.
  • "Platos Combinatos" was the new theme for travel in Spain this year (last year was "sacacorchos"... it's a good story).
  • Unlike most restaurant meals in Spain, you can get a "Platos Combinatos" before 9pm, and it more resembles a meal than Tapas.
  • Finishing dinner at 11:30pm and getting up for talks that start at 9am does not help with jet lag.
  • I actually kind of like calamari.
  • If you have a conference posse (of people you like), you could rent an apartment for the week and have a grand old time. Of course we thought of this after we arrived.
  • When transferring from plane to train in Lyons, you will likely need to take a long bus ride into the main station... even though there is a train station in the airport and it is closer to where you are going... really, you can go ask the guy at the desk there, he'll tell you where to catch the bus and possibly that you are much older than he thought (a compliment, I think).
  • Glaciers are tricky things to get to (more on that later).
  • Stay to the inside of the trail when hiking.
  • 2200m altitude will kick your arse even if you think you are in shape.
  • European hotels do not provide wash clothes.
  • Has anyone ever followed those signs in hotels asking you to hang the towels if you wish to use them again and returned to find that the same towels are actually there? Every time I hang them up neatly and I come back to fresh towels.
  • "ensoleillement" is a word which means "chance of sun"... it is predicted daily in Chamonix, but appears to have no actual correlation with the amount of sun appearing on a given day.
  • Do not say "hey, why don't we take a different route back" after hiking for 4-5 hours already when you are not sure where you are going and it will get dark soon.

I squish your head?

To Disgruntled Julie: I will post the meme soon... unfortunately I have work rather than knitting to do today. ;)


Word... sigh.

Oh hai, just thought I'd share this:

song chart memes
more music charts

Yes, I do try to avoid using Word. No, that is not always possible. Why yes, it does make me want to throw my otherwise lovely computer out the window.


Post-doc loc: hint #2

rest stop, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

Time for another hint in the guess the campus game...

Guess where I'm going for a post-doc?

Once again, *No cheating by going to Flickr to see the other pictures.*


Piled Higher and Deeper... they weren't kidding

My desk as it stands today:

Piled higher and Deeper...

Piles upon piles... stacks upon stacks... books and notes and files everywhere. I guess that's where PhD comics got the "Piled higher and Deeper" moniker from.

But wait... what is that sitting at the edge of my desk...

$20: acco press binders, $15: pack of labels, $25: 30 page hole punch, submitting your PhD thesis?  Priceless

... could that be seven thesis copies bound and labelled in acco press binders? forms all signed and ready for submission?? Why yes, that's exactly what those are, and submit it is exactly what I did first thing this morning.



Post-doc loc: hint #1

evergreen, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

Since I'm still waiting for my supervisor's thesis comments, let's play a game!

Guess where I'm going for a post-doc?

*No cheating by going to Flickr to see the other pictures.*

OMG, they're back...

Fluevog has brought back my favourite boots... the boots that had me ready to break my budget last year until I discovered I couldn't get my size.

What do I do??? :O

ps: if I find out you all went and bought up the 7.5's I'll be a very unhappy girl! dats a bad internetz!

pps: Fluevog is also having a great SALE! Check it out, fun for the whole family!! I mean, I'm not not wearing new Fluevog sandals!

Like a lemur....

manga me, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

Here I am in manga form, because everybody was doing it.

Peer pressure...


excuse me while i melt into a pool of blubbering grad student

So, I gave a "final" draft of my thesis to my supervisor on Friday. I'm sure he will have a few suggestions, but I don't expect major revisions as he's seen the bulk of it already and we discussed the sections he hasn't on several occasions. The last few days I've been puttering around, tidying up a few little things here and there, buying the stupid acco press binders I have to submit my thesis in, finding all the forms and figuring out the oddities of submitting a partially manuscript-based thesis. That last bit was stressful, though for once they were actually nice to me at grad studies, and there isn't really a problem except I can't find my copyright agreements anywhere. Note to self: make a folder for that.

So everything is fine. I'm almost done! But I feel all shaky and like I'm going to burst into tears. I think I've been under a bit too much stress. Maybe the giant thunderstorm outside is not helping. Maybe waking up at 4am and mentally outlining a review article I could write is not helping.

I have to say, I've done this thesis writing thing all wrong. Since April, I've attended 5 conferences/workshops, organized an "informal" summer school lunch series, given 5 talks and 2 posters, travelled to 6 cities, cut 2 pseudo-vacations short, submitted 1 paper and helped with corrections/preparation for two more, submitted two more abstracts for conference presentations, had my SIL visiting, had my hubby go to Japan for a month (while SIL was visiting), helped my best friend get married... oh, and wrote a thesis. I had, at most, two week stretches to write, and most of those got broken up with other little things. The majority of my thesis was written in bits and pieces of a day or two here and there. Some of it on planes, trains and busses. I can't say I really enjoyed the process.

Contrast this with how I wrote my MSc thesis, which I actually really enjoyed doing (ok, I missed the lab, but still I enjoyed it): one 7 week stretch, removed from my department by 5000km. No distractions, no conferences, no travelling. One move, and then time at a desk. I got really focused and into it, I learned things about my data I hadn't seen before, I thought of new interpretations, and things started to come together in a more consistent way. I had time to pick at the writing, the presentation, the ordering of the story and make it all flow.

I'm happy enough with the thesis I have in front of me now, I think it flows ok (given the circumstance under which I wrote it, I'm a little surprised), there are generalizations from the data that I'm just thrilled about, and I think it presents a nice consistent story. I hope it won't be painful to read. But I didn't have the time (or energy) to put a real polish on it this time. I'm sure it's good enough, but it's my usual "best". I'm proud of the science, but the document is just ok. There are things I thought of doing, that I just passed over in the end. It's bugging me. Maybe this is why I keep waking up at 4am thinking about these things. On the other hand, there is a voice in my head pleading "for the love of god, please just hand it in" because I can't bear the thought of dealing with it any longer. I need a real vacation. ;)

So, for those of you embarking on writing a thesis, I have this advice to offer: don't book yourself into dozens of obligations while you are writing. Set aside a real block of time to focus. Tell your colleagues they will have to get along without you (run away if you can!). Then, maybe, just maybe, you will enjoy it and learn something new from yourself.

I learned that I have limits. *sigh*


I'm still here...

bursting with blooms, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

... still writing, finished with conferences for the time being, papers are out of the way for now, dreaming of a bit of vacation when my thesis is submitted.

I have lots of things to post, but all writing energy is going elsewhere.

Meanwhile, look at the pretty flowers...

(taken in May with my film SLR Olympus OM-1 with my new-to-me 135mm f2.8 lens... dreamy bokeh)



Alberta::summer 2008, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

Two weeks ago, my best friend got married in the Rockies. Beautiful mountains, beautiful wedding.

I love this country, there are some incredible places and we had a great time out west. I just wish it weren't so big so I could have my friends and family closer.


der iz kitteh in mah computah?

more cat pictures

real post someday... mahbe aftur dissertashun dun. that reminds me... maybe i should backup...

right now about lolcats is about as much as i have energy for. *sigh*


i guess i'd do ok if whisked back to the 1930's...

I don't know how this came out so positive, but apparently I'd be an average housewife of the 1930's. Honestly, one look around this apartment would cause you to beg to differ, but when are internet quizzes accurate anyway.

Derived from an actual document (which you can view here) that gives some interesting insight into how things have changed over the years, it has now been put into the form of an internet quiz.


As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

Seen over at Dr. Brazen Hussy's who didn't fare so well (but has a roomba so likely doesn't have a dust bunny colony threatening her existance).

(Addendum, apparently hubby is "very superior"... I didn't believe him so I rated him too and it came out even higher... lucky me! Interesting that we noted the wife is expected to fulfill a societal role and maintain the status quo, but the husband gets extra points for going outside his expected role... perhaps the biggest difference between the 1930's and now?)


things I've learned this week

Stress is a state of mind, it's how we respond to the pressure. This has worked for me to help with feeling stressed a lot over the last year. But then there are times where there is really too much...

Working creates more work and that's how I got myself into this jam. If I hadn't worked so hard earlier, I wouldn't be giving 5 presentations in the next 2 months (2 in the next 2 weeks!) and submitting 2 more abstracts this week. If I would just learn to be mediocre I could just be happily writing my thesis in peace. Sometimes I need to leave well enough alone...

So now that I'm here...

The answer is not working harder, it's beer, because working harder will just lead to more work, right? and I seriously need to relax.

i can haz kitteh?

Oh sorry... another one, I know... but cute and funny at the same time? Teeheehee...

humorous pictures
more cat pictures

I mahbe wants kitteh...


i really need to do something with my hair...

ok, so I should be madly writing away, preparing talks etc, not obsessing over my hair but really... look... I really need to do something with this. I thought bangs would be cute at Christmas and got them cut. Um. Yeah. I thought I could handle "styling" bangs... but apparently not. Not only am I not responsible enough with my time to do it, I'm not even sure what to do with them to make them work. So now they are growing out and I've just always got all these straggly pieces around. Meanwhile the rest of my hair's grown like a bad weed and is out of control. Again me+hairdryer? not happening. I'm tired of looking like a slob.

Anyone have suggestions for easy, professional-looking hair, that's still feminine (ie. not my old habit of pulling it all back into a sloppy bun)?


new favourite afternoon tea

So I go through phases with tea, and I'm in a tea phase right now. By mid-afternoon I'm usually needing a little pick-me-up, but coffee seems to get me going too much to be able to sit and write. I like earl-grey ("Tea, earl grey, hot!" ... I'm such a dork... *snort*) but I picked up this new Lipton tea the other day which is a blend of white tea, green tea, blueberry and pommegranate. I'm ashamed to say I think I was attracted to the packaging, but I don't really care, because it turns out to be quite good. And they say antioxidants/flavinoids/whatevers are good for you right?

Cherrio then! Tea time!


i ♥ threadless tees!

How cute is this? I just ordered it. Now if only I could get a labcoat with this on it...

Threadless rocks. I may have also ordered this cute little onesie for a pregnant friend... *whistles innocently* So cute! So funny! That kid's gonna be the coolest babe on the playground. :D


To be or not to be... a prof

I'm supposed to be writing things, but I keep stumbling across interesting articles...

This one is about what it takes to be a science professor... at least some of the many aspects... with emphasis on the many. Certainly being academically strong is not the only requirement for the job.

University Affairs: So you want to be a science professor?

I think that piece of advice regarding asking someone you respect who is already there whether they think you have what it takes (and listening to them) is a good one... a reality check both for those suffering from impostor syndrome (they might say you'll be great!) and those on the other end of the spectrum (maybe it's important to consider other options). I had a conversation like this with my supervisor a few months ago, and while I got the impression he's confident I could get and do (maybe even excel) at the job, he brought up the issue that it might take longer than I'd like to find a professorship in the right area, both academically and geographically, and encouraged me to think about alternate plans should I get to the point I'm not willing to wait longer for a "real job". He knows I have other life goals/plans, and well, I guess reality is that a professorship *might* not work out for me. Not what I wanted to hear, but something I think I needed to hear... not that I'm giving up or anything!



Of course science has it's vocabulary, the euphemisms for "well, actually we don't know" and "we have found that these other folks were completely wrong", and there are the "um"s and "uh"s of talks when we need a pause to collect our thoughts again. But then there are the "so"s. I hadn't really thought about it, being such a little unassuming word, but it carries many meanings, and potentially great weight.

So, without further ado, click over to Seed magazine's article on "so":

Seed: "So"



... i think it's going to be another one of those days. somehow, i can't get my thermos open, which contains the life-giving coffee i so desperately need at the moment. oh, and i put the lid on, so... how does that work??


huh, it was the same side of the bed as every other morning...

I'm in a foul mood today. I've decided to just finally admit it to myself. Absolutely everything is getting to me today. It's kind of like being really itchy. I'm just plain cranky, and it doesn't help that everything is taking longer than I think it should today.

In fact some things I thought would be relatively simple have turned out to be a major pain in the arse due to a gnome infested computer that likes to change parameters without recording them anywhere accessible. So I'm guessing a calibration. It's 50-50 (there are only two options), and they're different enough I'm pretty sure I know it used the wrong one, but I don't like guessing.

So instead of writing the paper I'm supposed to be writing, I spent the last 5 hours trying to figure out what the heck is going on with my stupid images. Nothing seems to read the header fully enough to find out which calibration was used... if that is recorded at all (there's nm/pixel, but I need to know which nm/V was used to determine that).

Also, it is 30 C in my office. The university switches from heating to air conditioning on May 1 regardless of the actual weather.

I don't like heat.

My computer is overheating and burning my hands.


Can I go home now?


haiku for you

Haiku2 for mad-sci
education but
i also knew cheating was
wrong fast forward 5
Created by Grahame

seen over at Brazen Hussy's.


you've got to be frackin' kidding me... snow???

yup. it's still snowing.

Ironically, I'm waiting for a phone call from someone who might have a post-doc opportunity for me in California.

Geee... let me think... snow? beaches? snow? ... beaches.


It's snowing out.

Not a little bit either.

It is April 4th. April... 4th...

Spring supposedly started two weeks ago.

What the frack?


Scientists just aren't that exciting...

einstein grafitti, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

See, this is what happens when you make scientists into action heros. He's holding a piece of chalk. What can you do with a piece of chalk?!


It's not about technology, it's about academic integrity

By now, I think pretty much everyone has heard about it: the Ryerson student facing expulsion for his facebook exploits. Headlines like: Toronto student in Facebook fiasco, Online 'scapegoat' hailed, and Look, technology ... hide!.

Is it a huge PR nightmare for Ryerson? For sure, everyone's jumped on the facebook bandwagon and is accusing the university of being in the dark ages. Wake up and smell the virtual coffee. Is Chris Avenir unfortunate enough to be caught in the middle of something bigger than a facebook group? Yeah, probably. But the issue isn't the use of technology, it's the intent to circumvent academic integrity.

Universities have embraced technology, I'd say rather rapidly. My first email account was with the university, I'd never even had internet before. Today, most universities provide online registration, grades, course tools, testing, and yes, even discussion boards through tools like WebCT. I don't think universities are technophobes. So why the attack on this facebook "study" group?

"If you request to join, please use the forms to discuss/post solutions to the chemistry assignments. Please input your solutions if they are not already posted."

I'm not sure one can argue very effectively that this statement was not intended encourage the sharing of answers. Obviously Mr. Avenir was not the only one involved, but this doesn't really sound like students trying to use an online tool for open conceptual discussion. And what about the use of facebook, rather than one of those tools provided by the university? If everything was on the up-and-up why not use a discussion board for the course? I'm sure the professor would not have minded constructive discussion... in fact he/she would probably have been very pleased... unless there was cheating going on. In my experience (as a web-based TA) students turn to facebook and other places they think they are "safe" online when they know they are crossing that line. This is not about technology. The university provides that. This is about academic integrity.

Academic integrity. When I started university, not that long ago, I think I heard it mentioned once or twice. I knew there was a policy somewhere, and my handbook/agenda might have given the link for where to find it. I also knew cheating was wrong. Fast-forward 5 years, and TA's are practically reciting it to every class. Why? Because it's needed. Those same TA's are grading identical papers, and having conniptions about what to do. Is a first year lab worth reporting? What if it damages this person's academic career? University policy for cheating is strict, but rightly so, especially as it becomes increasingly prevalent. Somehow, despite how often academic integrity is hounded into students these days, they often don't even seem to realize what they are doing is wrong, and undermining their very own education. I don't know when or why this became such a problem, but it is.

So, is an online study group, where answers get shared, any different than the study group I worked with in the computer lab in 1st year to get my online physics assignments done? Yes and no. Obviously, we "shared" a little too much at times. There was a deadline, there was panic, Cindy-loo-who had the answer! But the distinction comes in the need for two-way interaction. In a face-to-face study group, people are more likely to take the time to explain how they got to an answer, and people are less likely to only take from the group. It starts to become obvious if Joe isn't pulling his weight. If Joe's lucky, someone will give him a hand if he's just having trouble. This kind of study group speaks to effective educational techniques like peer-teaching and probably offsets the degree of illegitimate "sharing". The worry is that this isn't necessarily the case for an online study group, especially one as large as Avenir's. People post answers, other people come and read those answers. There is less impetus for two-way sharing, and it is both more difficult and less likely that people will have full discussion to understand the background.

I'm all for using online tools for learning. I think it's great that these extra resources are out there, and online discussions allow students who might not otherwise be able to participate in a "real-world" study group (due to living situations, distance from the university, etc.) the chance to interact with their peers. But students have to realize that the the same rules apply in online world that apply in the real world. Facebook, or any other site is not a virtual shelter. (In fact, it leaves a digital trail.)

I don't know that it's entirely fair to Chris Avenir for the University to expel him, and not the other participants in the group, but I do think they have every right to enforce academic policy in any forum that students attempt to use to circumvent it.


truffled potatoes au gratin

truffled potatoes au gratin, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

Last night we made Truffled Potatoes au gratin, made by (more or less) this recipe from epicuious.com.

We skipped the truffles for truffle oil, made a little less than half of the recipe, and added some parmesan cheese for extra flavour and crispiness. We used the slicer on our food processor for the potatoes cutting down the prep time dramatically. :) I'm loving the "robot culinaire" now that we have it.

Sadly, we were too excited to dig in, so I don't have a photo after baking. Trust me, it looked delicious and tasted even better! Maybe we'll spring for some truffles next time... Yum!


wishing for summer to return

It's just one of those days, where I wish summer would hurry up and come back. Don't get me wrong, I've been enjoying this winter (hockey! snowshoeing! lots to knit!), but it's a gloomy stormy day and I'm gloomy and stormy today, and I'd like the weather to fix my mood a little. *sigh* Unfortunately, I don't think the seasons take orders from the likes of me.

In the meantime, a picture from last summer to warm things up a little.


sunday afternoon musings about productivity

it has become clear to me on this sunday afternoon, that if i am ever going to get a thesis written, i am going to need a supply of chocolate in my office.


Imposter syndrome... a real thing

A few times when I've mentioned "Imposter syndrome" I've been met with a reaction of disbelief. Of course, most people in academia know it all too well (I could theorize on why this is*, but have no substantiation for my beliefs other than my personal experience).

There is an article over at Science Careers right now: Getting over the feeling that you're not a phoney takes accurate self-appraisal (found via "On being a scientist and a woman", thanks for the heads up!) that I found a good read (it even has references! see it's real!). Sometimes it helps just to be aware of the problem, that it is real, and that you are far from alone.

I have struggled with Imposter syndrome myself. I have always been a good student, I've won scholarships and received recognition from people in my field at conferences, I've got papers published that people seem to read and cite, by all measures I seem to be doing relatively well... but then the doubt creeps in. Am I working as hard as my peers? Do I understand and know as much as they do? Are my publications as good as theirs? Did I just get lucky with this project I'm on? Could I have done as well with something else? Will I be able to produce successful results and publications somewhere else working on something different? Yipes! Why the hell do I not feel confident about my own success?? And yet, people seem to see me as successful, confident and knowledgeable, and I think at times I foster Imposter syndrome in my peers. On the one hand, I know it is important to project confidence in order for others to take you seriously and believe what you have to say, but on the other hand, it seems ridiculous for my peers to see me this way when at times I don't feel confident and am questioning whether I really know what I know. What an imposter I am!

I went through a particularly bad spell after writing the PhD preliminary or qualifying exam here. After all the stress of the exam I was sure I would fail it and that maybe it was for the best because I didn't belong here anyway. At the same time I was awarded a top scholarship and my brain just couldn't wrap itself around this apparent disparity between what I thought of my ability, and what was being validated externally. Which was correct? Was I an Imposter who didn't deserve said scholarship? Or was I just crazy? It has taken a long time to get over this (err... mostly over it) despite lots of other successes along the way. I told one of the professors in our department when he asked about the prelim exam that I found it a "soul-crushing, confidence-destroying experience" and he looked at me strangely and inquired how that could be for such a good student?

While I agree with the article that accurate self-appraisal is key to knocking down Imposter syndrome, afterall, it comes from within, how does one develop an accurate (and I guess un-biased) view of one's own success? The article makes some suggestions that I will try. Mostly though, I think it is good to talk about it, and perhaps it would help too to hear it from people who have made it already. A friend of mine's father is a professor in the same general field in which she is doing a PhD and she talked about a conversation she had with her dad about Imposter syndrome. She was mystified to discover that after all these years he too still feels somewhat like a "fraud" from time to time, despite a long successful career as evidence to the contrary. I hold onto that as an indication that these waverings and feelings of being an imposter are in my head, and that they can be overcome... though they may also be with me for the long run!

* I think it has to do with two aspects of being an academic. The first is the long period of time spent in school and under constant evaluation and comparison with peers. The second is the difficulty of comparing ones performance to ones peers once in a research intensive environment due to the diversity of work at the level. Due to our training, we may try even harder to determine our success (give ourselves a grade), but it becomes increasingly difficult to compare even different sub-fields as the nature of the research may mean more/less publications, more/less attention, more/less funding support... As such we end up as a bunch of over-achievers starved for evaluation and turn inward allowing our insecurities to compound, surmising that of course our colleges, who outwardly appear confident and competent, must be smarter, harder-working, and just plain better than us. These may at least be contributing factors to the prevalence of Imposter syndrome in academia... in my humble opinion. How to change this? I have no idea. Maybe there is a way to foster accurate self-evaluation earlier in our education, but I don't have any idea how to accomplish that.


Physics Phun over at physicsknits!

You must all run over to physicsknits and watch the Physics Phun with Conan O'Brien.

Much hilarity.


Geeky girly girl

If pressed, I would probably have to categorize myself as a geek or a nerd, after all I am in physics and I enjoy playing with computers and other technodorky things (I once asked for a graphing calculator for Christmas... I really, really wanted it). But I also like pretty dresses and shoes, I wear makeup and occasionally paint my nails just because they will be pretty for a few days (maybe... if I'm lucky and don't wreck them in the lab) and that makes me happy. I wouldn't give up either part of myself for anything.

To me, there is nothing wrong with the statement that "I am a geeky girly girl".

So I thought it was interesting to see this article on Wired about a collection of stories written by self-proclaimed "she-geeks". While I think it's great the sentiment is out there, and that the dad of two little girls was intrigued by it and is now armed with a new perspective, my reaction is kind of "so?". Are we so new? The "she-geek"?

Sure, I've met with resistance to my girlieness in this male-dominated kingdom of dorkdom such as comments about the uselessness of my nailpolish, the impracticality of my shoes, or "what's the occasion" if I wear a skirt. I've always chalked this up to misunderstanding... after all, there aren't really enough other gals around here to make a reasonable sample of what a she-physicist should look/act like, but to me there's no reason I should look or act any different than any other woman... well, except I can wear jeans and a t-shirt to work with no objection from anyone, which is nice, at times.

So, while some may look at me and think I'm a dichotomy, I will continue to get just as hot under the collar for those cute little vintage heels as I will for a sweet RAM upgrade (today I have an extra 1GB woot!).

... and really, I don't think I'm very rare.



Now that we are half-way through winter, my yearning for a dressier pair of boots has intensified as my chances of finding what I want in my (very common) size diminish.

After lusting after several different pairs of Fluevogs particularly "babycake" which I can't even seem to find an image of anymore (a beautiful pair of mid calf boots with a small heel and rubber sole, in vintage style with brogue detailing and fake leather covered buttons up the side), I have finally found a pair that whet my appetite. Except... I can't find them online in my size or a colour I would wear (the bright red is simply not "me")... so what are the odds of walking into a store that has any stock left?

Sigh... for the best right? ... right?


disclaimer: i haz maybe lost mind

moar funny pictures

ohhhh... sorry for the groaner... couldn't help it... too funny to my tired brain today...


I learned a new word today...


Courtesy of the (very funny) Yarn Harlot's blog today.

stet |stet|
verb ( stetted , stetting ) [ intrans. ]
let it stand (used as an instruction on a printed proof to indicate that a correction or alteration should be ignored).

It is an editing term, derived from latin, that means "let it stand", as in put it back the way I wrote it, as in stop trying to ruin the greatness that I crafted in words.

Today, I am trying to finalize the edits for an article manuscript I just got back from a journal with some comments I swear indicate that the referees only looked at the figures and read every third paragraph. To be fair I get a little overly attached to my writing, and have a tendency to take it rather personally when a referee suggests changes. Ok fine, so sometimes I want to cry and just revoke my submission and say "fine, then the world will just NEVER KNOW!"... possibly including a "nah na-nah na-nah naaahhh". Of course I realize that is just silly, and then go about trying not to sound too defensive and like I am a reasonable being that is at least considering what has been suggested. Sigh.

I wish I could just reply with a giant "STET". No "please" attached.


ps- in all honesty, there are some good suggestions, and I suppose the paper will be better for it, except that now it will be too long. I just hate the revision process, and there are a few really odd comments I just don't know how to respond to besides to say "read it again!".


toasty toes

Warning: knitting post.


Pattern: Tyrolean stockings from Interweave Knits, Fall 2007
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Merino, antique rose (~1.75 balls)
Ravelry link

I finally finished my Tyrolean stockings. I started these right after I got the magazine as I was enthralled by the pattern, seduced by the thought of having some great knee socks, and justified yet another WIP by the fact that I was using stash yarn. I worked away at them here and there, but set them aside for the Christmas knitting, and interrupted them for a sweater. Over Christmas I finished the first one and was so thrilled I got the second done within a couple of weeks.

The pattern is actually relatively easy. I didn't think it possible, but by about half way down the first I had the chart memorized, and the second one flew by. I honestly never thought I would make it through a pair of cabled socks, but here they are.

One note on the pattern that wasn't clear to me was that the last row before starting the heel flap should contain the twists and small cables. I didn't do it on the first sock and by the time I'd finished the heel I realized that I should have done it, but was too lazy to rip out the whole heel to fix it. So they are fraternal twins, as I knit the second as I thought they should be.

A note on my yarn selection: this isn't an ideal yarn for the pattern. I used it because it was in my stash and I loved the colour. I forced it to gauge (though in hindsight I could have gone up a needle size and made them roomier anyway), which made for some very tight cable knitting that gave me shoulder knots. The resulting fabric is pretty tight (not so much stretch) and very, very warm. This is perfect for the -20 degC we have today, but I'm afraid these won't see too much use. It also isn't superwash, which means these are handwash socks. Yuk. However, Patons Classic wool is quite soft, and relatively cheap. If you have it in your stash, all the better.

Final verdict? Love. :)

(ps- don't worry, I wore pants with them today. my knees are quite safe from frostbite!)

identity crisis

No, no, I'm not the one having trouble with my identity, it's the internet.

Something that's bugged me for awhile is that, due to my very common name compounded with the fact that I usually publish with my given initials only, when I search for my own papers in web of science or inspec, or any other of the publication databases, it is next to impossible to find my papers through the hundreds of others with the same moniker. It is especially problematic as it seems there is someone at my institution with the same first initial and same last name that publishes on many, many super multi-author publications, thus totally drowning out my (meager) contributions to science.

Let's just completely ignore the fact that when you google my name you get a freestyle skier that likes to pose skantily clad for magazines.

So back to the indexes... I've often thought that in today's age of electronic databases that we could have some kind of online association such that if a person found ONE of your papers, or maybe knew some topics you had already published on, could associate you with you repertoire. I also thought this could be useful if say, you got married and decided to change your name. One quick click to associate the two names, and that issue would be taken out of the dilemma. Easy-peasy right? Seems like it should be. A little while ago ISI web of science introduced an author search and I thought I'd finally be able to find myself, but it wasn't really flexible enough to deal with a somewhat varied set of research papers associated with different institutions. Just not there yet...

Well, a couple of days ago I got an email from ISI to try something they're introducing called ResearcherID.com. Basically it lets you input your information, including institution, full name(s!), research area, etc, etc. Then you can search, though web of science, for your papers and add them to your profile. It then keeps track of the citation information for your papers, and people can search ResearcherID for your name and whatever other info they might know about you to find your unique profile. I think it's great! I hope it catches on.

Now I can stop calculating my own h-index and just look it up. Oh, stop looking at me like that... as if you've never kept track of your citations. The whole thing gave me a little confidence boost on a somewhat low day as well since I discovered that my 8 papers have been cited a total of 73 times! Whoah... However, my h-index is sitting at 3, which according to Wikipedia's article isn't stupendous for a physicist:

In physics, a moderately productive scientist should have an h equal to the number of years of service...

Ok, that statement probably doesn't apply well to the beginning of one's career (if we count from my first publication date of 2002 even though I was still an undergrad at the time, that makes 6 years.), but still, I would like to see it get closer.

... but I digress...

For those of you who are interested in this ResearcherID thing, it seems to be by invitation only right now, but there is a sign-up sheet to be informed of developments (I think I got invited because I evaluated the author search feature at one point and got on ISI's spam list).


2007: in the yarn

2007: in the yarn, originally uploaded by physics*chick.

2007 was actually a pretty big year of knitting for me, but somehow not much of it really made it to the blog. To summarize:

Not bad! I'd still like to get around to blogging a few (especially my sweater!). I've already got one FO for 2008 I want to share, and was making rapid progress on another I'm in love with until I got derailed by my knitterly ADD.


RSS feed reader...

Ok, ok, I know, I'm supposed to be working... but I just had to share...

I've been using RSS feeds to look really smart for awhile now. Most journals have RSS feeds of their tables of contents which update with all the new articles. Sooo... to "stay on top of the literature" I've been using the RSS feeds of the most relevant journals in my field (and the biggies... Science and Nature with their associated "news-y" segments) in combination with saved searches in Safari. This actually works fine, except that the search criterion are a bit primitive and getting logical statements in there is somewhere between a pain and impossible (I recall trying at some point... but I gave up). The other issue is that to check the feeds I end up opening my web browser and well, this snapshot of my bookmarks bar might give you a hint as to where that often leads...

uh-huh... so while in principle this saves me time and makes me look really on the ball, I end up reading your blogs or comics or... you get the point. Also note that the total unread feeds for all the journals I'd like to survey is a whopping 4821. Searching or filtering these with relevant terms is essential to this process being of any help at all.

Also, many dedicated feed readers out there have nice features that Safari does not (because it's primary purpose is to be a web browser... ) so I had looked and looked for a good *free* feed reader some time ago and basically hit the wall when none of the free version had the ability to search.

Until today my friends. Today I stumbled upon the fact that NetNewsWire (for Mac) is now free (the full version, not some "lite" version like before), and it can do all I want it to do.

Now my feeds are in there, organized and filtering out what I really need to know. It's fantastic. And I won't have to open a browser, so as long as I leave the blogs, and comics, and everything else distracting out of there, we are looking at a new era of productivity.

Yipee! :)

Another carnival of GRADual progress up

... and it's a good one. Go check it out.

I particularly enjoyed the bit about a good powerpoint presentation from academhack. Excellent stuff, really.

That is all.


Note to self: self, wake up.

Dear Physics*chick,

You performance so far this semester has been somewhat underwhelming. While you have accomplished several necessary tasks since your return after the holidays you have seemed generally unmotivated and somewhat disorganized. As you anticipate publishing several papers and getting started on writing your dissertation over the next few months I feel it necessary to encourage you to improve your performance as it will take a great deal more effort to accomplish these tasks than you appear to be applying. This is not meant to be a criticism, but merely a check between your goals and your current output.



Thank-you for your concern, Physics*chick. I recognize that I will need to apply myself more intensely if I wish to accomplish my goals. I have already taken your advice and taken action to get going.


Ok, maybe it's a bad sign that I'm talking to myself, but really, I do seem to be having trouble getting motivated and finding my way through the immense piles of stuff that ought to get done (but has no guiding deadlines). Since I really need to do a bunch of reading and am having most trouble motivating myself to do that I've decided to start with some papers that are of some general interest (ie. outside my field, but of peripheral interest to my field) to me. Maybe then I can get back into the swing of things.


2008: Year of the Potato

Yup, according the CBC News, 2008 is the International Year of the Potato (among other things).

It's the International Year of the Potato, of sanitation, of languages, and of planet Earth. The potato year, designed to raise awareness of the lowly tuber, already has its own website complete with glowing images of spuds.

Now, potatoes, those humble vegetables, are really one of my favourite foods. I guess this comes from growing up near one of the largest potato producing regions (Prince Edward Islands), securing a constant supply of high quality potatoes throughout my childhood. In fact, one of the things that bugs me the most about living in a large city, is that somehow it seems to be damn hard to get a good potato around here. Black beans? No prob. Potatoes that aren't gone soft? Enhh... maybe.

Here's hoping that the International Year of the Potato will bring it greater prestige and will bring to light the plight of us poor potato-starved city dwellers.

Glory to the Potato!


We interrupt this celebration for a brief announcement...

i got a goal!!! my very first hockey goal!!!

that will be all. :D


Happy New Year!

Cheers!, originally uploaded by physics*chick.


The year of the THESIS.

Eek. I actually worked out the LaTeX template yesterday and looked over my outline yesterday.

I wonder how it will go? I generally feel good about it. I'm confident in the collection of stuff I have to put into it. The data is solid, much of it is at least preliminarily analysed. Much of it is published or at least submitted. But what else will I learn? I came up with so many new ideas and interpretations while writing my MSc thesis, I'm kind of curious to see what will fall out this time.

And of course I can't wait to wear the floppy hat. THAT is a bold fashion statement.

And then there is the "I wonder where I'll be next year at this time?" California? Germany? Freezing my arse off in Edmonton? Will I follow the project I can't stop thinking about? Or go for a big name place? It's all exciting, but I'm not so good with uncertainty.

Why does every year seem like a BIG year these days.

Here we go.... Wheeeeeeee!