Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Now I know why some grad students just quit when they are so close to finishing their degree. There's even a name for them too, something like "all but the thesis". I can't remember the exact term. I always thought these grad students were crazy. They were so close but didn't finish. I now understand why. There is only so much shit you can put up with before it breaks you. No, I'm not quitting. I won't give anyone that satisfaction and I've worked too damn hard to give up now. I have just come to realize why some do.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Does anyone actually read all their email?

I know I don't. We get so much departmental email that if the subject line doesn't catch my eye I just skip over it. Even with some messages if people blab on forever about the same thing I'll just skim it. That came back to bite me in the ass on Friday. Every week we have a TA meeting on Fridays at noon. Every week, same place, same time. Also every week we get an email from the lab co-ordinator with the handouts for the week. This week was nothing different. We got the usual email with the subject line "handouts for lab session". I skimmed the email as usual and tuned out once he started repeating what he had just said. The man is very redundant. I made a mental note to print off the handouts before the lab meeting and I closed my email.

On Friday I head off to the lab meeting at the usual time. I'm surprised to find only a few people there but whatever. We wait, and wait, and wait some more but the lab co-ordinator doesn't show up. Hmmm. We head off to his office to see what's up and low and behold the lab meeting had been changed to 10:30. What? He says to us in a snooty tone how it was stated in the email he sent. He said he could meet with us later on in the afternoon, which ended up screwing up my whole plan for my day but whatever. I go back to the lab and check my email. Sure enough stuck in the middle of a sentence about something else three quarters through the email is a brief mention of the meeting being at 10:30. I'll admit it's my fault for not reading my whole email but shouldn't something like a time change for a meeting that is always at the same time be stated in the subject line or in the first sentence of the email? That only makes sense to me. Last week was crazy busy and very frustrating. Reading all my email was the last thing on my list. I chalk it up the the cherry on top of a bad week. Hopefully this week is better.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A movie? A mini-wolf? What a day!

This week they are filming a movie in the building I'm in. When we first got the email about it I didn't even read it. I figured it was just another departmental email telling me something I really didn't care to know. However the talk by others of a movie peaked my interest so I eventually read the email. Apparently this is a real movie and not some university production. It's actually a sequel to a movie. However I haven't even heard of the first movie so chances are I wouldn't be interested in the sequel. None the less I figured the fact that they are shooting a movie was pretty interesting. Unfortunately I haven't heard of any of the actors in the movie. I was hoping for a big star sighting or something but no.

Why am I talking about all this movie stuff anyways and what does this have to do with a mini-wolf? Well there are certain hallways blocked off this week for the setup and shooting of the movie. I however had to be in one of those hallways today as they were setting up. I was doing a lab for grade 6 girls. We were extracting DNA! It's sort of a get girls interested in science thing. They were setting up for the movie right outside the lab me and the girls were in. The setup mainly consisted of putting new things in the display cabinets in the hallway. I guess they borrowed stuffed animals (not the cute ones you buy from Toys R Us) and skeletons from the zoology department for the displays. I was curious so I went about checking out the displays. In one there was this odd looking wolf. It had a normal wolf head but it's body was half the size. It was weird indeed. I was convinced it was fake until one of the lab coordinators came up and told me that no that wolf is real. Apparently it was stunted at birth. It was so interesting to see. I think I was more interested in the mini-wolf then the fact that they were shooting a movie. That's definitely a science geek for you - more fascinated by a developmentally abnormal animal than a movie set. I hope mini-wolf stays around in the display case for a while and isn't put back in some dark zoology room somewhere. Something like that needs to be on display if for no other reason but to make me chuckle everytime I see it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More Olympics talk

I find this year's Olympics to be quite interesting. Here's just a few tid bits that come to mind right now.

There was the showboating snowboarder, Lindsey Jacobellis, who lost the gold medal as a result. The best moment though was watching her mom's reaction. Not even a flinch when her daughter goes down but instead she is wildly yelling "Get up! GET UP!!!". That is definitely the parent of an Olympian. As for the showboating, at first I thought it was a stupid move however when you think about it she was SO far ahead of the other snowboarders and considering the two Canadians wiped out there was really only one person, Switzerland's Tanja Frieden, who could have passed her. With that in mind and being so close to the finish line I'm sure the method air seemed like a good idea at the time and honestly it would have been had she landed it properly. Unfortunately the gold medal for her just wasn't meant to be.

Another interesting event was the ice dancing pair of Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio who apparently were having a little tiff over some fall or something in their original dance. I don't really watch ice dancing so I missed that but watching them walk past each other without a word before their free dance was quite funny. She was definitely shooting daggers at him. Must have been quite the fall.

Of course no discussion of interesting Olympic events would be complete without mentioning the Canadian hockey teams. First the downside, what is up with the men's team? I mean honestly? Get it together guys. They did win against the Czech Republic though so hopefully things are turning around. This is Canada afterall, home of hockey. The Canadian woman's team definitely brought it! Way to go ladies!!! Woo hoo Canada! That final game was great. Whoever said women can't play hockey can eat their words. I can't believe that it has taken so long for women's hockey to gain some momentum. Hopefully games like those in the women's Olympic hockey tournament bring about more girls taking up hockey. I know I enjoy playing it. I never thought I would but it is actually a lot of fun and a great workout too.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The lost Olympics post

I've been slacking lately with updating my blog. Why you ask? Well the usual response is because I'm busy but lately it's mainly been because of the Olympics. Yes that's right, the Olympics. I am so hooked on the winter Olympics. I'm not such a fan of the summer Olympics though but I'll watch a bit of it. My winter Olympic infatuation started four years ago with the last winter Olympics. For some reason I got hooked and couldn't stop watching. It resulted in two weeks of sleep deprivation. At the time I think my supervisor thought I was crazy to be so addicted to watching the Olympics. Every day he would ask me why I look so tired and my response would be, "Damn Olympics!".

I've been looking forward to this Olympics since then. Unfortunately I'm super busy right now and don't have as much time as I would like to watch them. I even had to tape the women's halfpipe the other day and I still haven't had a chance to watch it. I'm not sure why I'm such an Olympics fan but it's killing me today that I'm stuck in the lab and I keep hearing on the radio about how Canada has won four medals today. Go Canada!!!! I can't wait to go home and catch the highlights. It was while watching snowboarding at the winter Olympics four years ago that I came to the conclusion that, "Hey I could probably do that". So I convinced a few of my friends that they could probably do that too and off we went for a beginner snowboarding lesson and a day of snowboarding. I quickly realized that in fact no I can't snowboard. I've been a skier all my life and had difficulty grasping the concept of both of my feet being strapped to the same board. After watching snowboarding the other day I had a fleeting thought that I should try snowboarding again but that was quickly replaced by the memory of all the bruises and pain I was in after my last snowboarding attempt. I think I'll stick to skiing and forgo my dream of becoming a halfpipe champion.

One thing I don't like about watching the Olympics is it makes me feel like I wasted my youth. Most of the Olympians are younger than me and then you hear the announcer mention that this is their second or third Olympics! Damn I feel lazy. I blame my mother. She was so worried that I would break a bone or something if I did sports so I wasn't in many sports as a kid. Kinda makes me wonder if I had a hidden talent that was never discovered. I'm making up for it now though by playing every sport I can find. My mom did put me in figure skating as a kid though. Ya, no worries about injuries there - sharp blades, the pick, hard ice, kids who don't know how to skate trying to do jumps like the Olympians, right. I did come in first in our little skating competition though because I was the only kid who did a spin. Ooooo.... ahhhh. Sometimes I wonder if I stayed in figure skating could I have eventually been good enough for the Olympics? I guess I'll never know. I'll just become one of those parents who pass on their missed opportunities to their children and force them to take figure skating lessons everyday until they strangle me with their skates. Hopefully I won't turn into a parent like that. One thing is for sure though, any future kids of mine will be in sports of some kind. Broken bones be damned.

Just not my week

This week has been crappy. I've been super busy and really tired. In an effort to not fall asleep while waiting for my incubation to be done I decided I would update my blog. I wrote a whole thing about the Olympics because I'm addicted to watching them but then Blogger screwed up and only posted half of it and I can't recover the other half. I'm too tired to re-write it. This may seem like a minor set back and something not worthy of complaining about however after having my hard drive on my laptop crap out on me yesterday I'm really not fond of computers right now. Plus I figured I would take a nice relaxing break from all the stress and write something in my blog. That didn't work. Now I'm pissed off, tired, hating computers even more, and angry that I'm still in the lab 10.5 hours after I got here and I'm missing the Olympics. I need a vacation!!! And while I'm wishing, someone to do my last two experiments and write my thesis too.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

How is it Thursday already?

I've had a crazy busy week. I took off part of Monday and all of Tuesday off for a job interview out of town. Yes for an actual real job! I'll post more on that another time. I'm tired. Two days off be damned I had high hopes of what I wanted to get done this week which has meant doing what I had planned to do in a week but instead doing it in three days. On top of it I proctored an exam on Monday and suspected a student of cheating so then I had to write up a formal letter stating what I observed and all that. I doubt that's the end of the formal letter writing in regards to this. Why do students try to cheat?

So I'm freaking tired and working long hours. Not a good combination. On the plus side I taught my lab this morning and to be honest was a bit unprepared due to time constraints partly due to the interview and partly due to answering numerous emails from my students about a lab report that was due this week. I was prepared enough to get the information across to the students but I still felt like I didn't give it 100%. After the class I had a few students comment that it was a really good lab. Perhaps I over prepare for my labs and bore them or maybe it was the meiosis demo using pool noodles that grabbed their attention.

Now I'm off for some much needed stress relief - watching My Name is Earl and The Office. I haven't watched TV all week!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

How to write your thesis in a week

Today this retired professor came by the lab to visit. He used to work in the department but the department pretty much made him retire because he was getting up there in age. The man lives and breathes science so retirement doesn't sit well with him. He comes by every so often to get his science chat fix. Some people think he's a bit whacked in the head but he means well and if you listen closely to his crazy talk he usually has some good points mixed in with the crazy ones.

Today he was asking me how my experiments were going and if I've started writing up. This of course led to the topic of writing a thesis. He proceeded to tell me how I could write my thesis in a week. Trust me, I had to use all my might to hold back the laughter. I thought I'd share his infinite wisdom on thesis writing in case you are hoping to write your thesis in a week.

Step 1 - Make all your figures and tables ahead of time and don't forget those figure legends! The making of the figures and tables isn't actually included in the thesis-in-a-week timeline. He actually never mentioned how long you should take for this step.

Step 2 - Once you have all your figures and table in a neat pile go through them and write the results based on what your figures or tables say. He estimates this should take a day.

Step 3 - Now that you know what results you are putting in your thesis write the materials and methods based on the techniques you used to get the results. Estimated time for this? He gave it a day or two stating that materials and methods are boring to write so it may take you two days.

Step 4 - Based on your results write the discussion. According to him this should take 2-3 days, no more.

Step 5 - Last but not least, the introduction. Estimated time? One day.

So that brings our grand tally of "time to write a PhD thesis" to seven days at most. Well if it was that easy I would have been done my thesis last week! I forgot to ask him though whether the week timeline included sleeping. Somehow I doubt it.

Although I think the timeline is a bit whacked I find that his logic and order for writing the thesis makes sense and seems to be the most efficient. As I said, he always has some good advice mixed in with the crazy talk.