Acquired Taste

Sweet, salty, bitter, and sometimes delicious.

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Things my cousin has texted me in the past week.

Posted by unbeelievable on October 6, 2010

My cousin and her husband are going through a slightly…messy divorce. Somehow, even though I don’t have a clue about divorce or how to get out of bad relationships, I have become the chief adviser in this situation. So I am getting a lot of fairly interesting texts (most of these are randomly sent, almost like twitter updates or something). Anyway, read on…

I told him i wanted a divorce and he said no we are working this out. And then he threatened me and said that i don’t want his family involved he will take everything and the kids. His parents have more money than me. [wow, way to play good cop/bad cop in the same conversation!]

…and I was told i better not lock the door. I locked it anyway f** him people lock doors when they sleep. [as it turns out, he just broke in anyway]

He is prob having an operation tomorrow maybe he will just die. [this is how bad things have gotten. I don’t think that they are going to “work it out.”]

This is some scary stuff. And for a gal on the verge of getting married, extra scary!

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Post-doc’ing

Posted by unbeelievable on September 15, 2009

Having a Ph.D. doesn’t mean what is used to mean. Or, perhaps, what it meant in my mind before acquiring one.

It used to be, if you had a Ph.D. and a couple crappy articles, you were in to a teaching heavy school (perhaps a nice small liberal arts college…) and if you had a couple of good articles, you went straight to a Tier 1 school –a Big 12 or Pac 10 school, or even Ivy League if you were lucky, to try your hand at writing even more articles, getting in a few textbooks, and of course, getting tenure.

Now what’s the routine?

Have a few crappy articles? Well, the job market’s pretty tight. So you can compete for a fairly crappy school (for the record: crappy in academic speak means teaching four or more classes per semester at a school that nobody has ever heard of….which may not sound hard but is truly punishing for those who are actually trying to create good academic experiences for their students).

Or you can do a postdoc. More on that in a sec.

What if you had a few really good articles? It’s not so easy to get those Tier 1 jobs, anymore. You can get a decent job at a reasonable state school, but if you have had this much success in graduate school, t you know you’ve got potential. Just a few more articles, and Stanford will be rolling out the red carpet, right? So what can you do?

A postdoc.

Oh yes, you will initially be excited by the prospect of breaking the 25,000 K per year mark. And, in theory, a postdoc is just doing what you already did in grad school, minus the pressure of the dissertation, minus the need to T.A., right? Five first-author articles in the top journals.. here we come?

Except, no.

It’s quite possible you will come out of your one, two, or, god forbid… three year post-doc with little more than a few sixth author publications and a ton of wasted time.

Fact – people who can afford to hire post-docs generally have grants. Those people generally want to become more famous than they already are (to get more grants, which allow them to (a) boost their salaries and (b) offload teaching responsibilities, which the majority of professors who are truly “research academics” at heart prize). Are those people going to let you be first author on a paper, especially when you’ve only been around a year? Sorry, don’t count on it. Two years? Maybe one, if you push them and are lucky. Sure, they might give you a conference presentation or two… but if you’ve been doing anything in graduate school, you already have a ton of these, so who really cares?

Fact: You will not have time to do “your own research” as a post-doc, unless your new boss isn’t paying attention. That’s not to say he or she won’t promise that when you sign on. “Of course, our projects come first, but when there’s downtime, we encourage you to work on publications that are relevant to your interests!!” Just so you know, “downtime” to these people means Winter Break and weekends (that they’re not asking you to work overtime).

Fact: If you are any good at your post-doc job (meaning you make a significant contribution to running the lab in some way) your new “mentors” are going to want to keep you around awhile. That is, until NIMH grant #194343 runs out, and you will be dropped like a sack of potatoes. They may even hope to break your spirit enough that you become a “lifer” and never actually leave the safety of the lab, leaving you the opportunity to do glorified clerical work (better order those binders and sort the new arrivals from the lab supplies catalog) for the rest… of your life.

My advice is to be very…very…very careful with postdocs. My experience with postdoc’ing, combined with those of a few friends, has led me to believe that they CAN be wonderful in some cases…but true time-wasters in others.. and even career-killers in some. More advice soon on what to look for in a post-doc… and what to avoid like the plague.

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Updates & Happiness Project Activity

Posted by unbeelievable on September 14, 2009

I’ve been gone for the past few months, in large part, because I haven’t been a very happy camper. My finger injury (back in February) took at least a month to become even semi-recovered (I will take a picture at some point: it has a pretty small external scar, considering. But, underneath, the nerves and muscles are still a bit messed up and I am still, for example, learning to type with my finger again.

Then in March, we got evicted from our apartment. I will tell the story later, but it was quite unpleasant.

And then there is my job. There are several posts worth of work on that one. Let’s just say it is a job that is technically pretty easy, but is, somehow, the most stressful and unhappy place I’ve ever worked.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project on Slate.com, one of my favorite sites. She updates her blog frequently with stories, interviews, and tips.

One of Rubin’s tips for unhappy folks is to identify the problem(s). After some thought, I realized a few months ago that my primary problems are:

1.) Living in an unfinished house. After the eviction, which was not our fault and could not be avoided, we had to immediately move in to our construction-zone house. At this point, we don’t have drywall, insulation, heating, or a real shower. I tried to deny that these factors were making me feel unhappy for awhile (trying to keep a positive attitude!) but, you know what? They are. Now that I’ve identified the problem, we’ve made small steps to fix the problem.

a.) We’ve moved all of the tools and construction supplies OUT of the front part of the house (that we are living in). Not having to step over saws or staring at stuff I need to return to Home Depot when I step in the front door has made a big difference.

b.) We’ve bought some furniture. We lived in a TINY apartment for years (400 sq ft), and we had a bed, a couch, a desk, a desk chair and a kitchen island. That was all that would fit!

We now have around 600 square feet of usable space and we filled that space with canvas folding chairs and a plastic table that we bought at Sams. It made the living room (and temporary dining room) look like a campsite.

Last weekend, we went to Ikea and bought some real furniture: a comfy chair and a real dining table with four very comfortable chairs. Now our house really feels like a home! We made dinner last Sunday and had people over, and, for the first time, I felt like I didn’t have to apologize for where I live.

c.) We’re trying to get the house to some sort of stopping point within 6 months. I think it is going to be difficult (especially due to budget concerns) but doable. Sitting down together and making a plan made us both feel better (believe me, you begin to think that these projects will never get done after awhile).

2. Money Concerns. Isn’t money always a problem? Basically, we’ve been trying to finance the construction of this house on our own, and we’re are in quite a bit of CC debt at the moment. It seems like every time you turn around on a house you are spending 10,000 dollars at a time. Plumbing? 10,000 dollars. Stucco? 10,000 dollars. Roof? 10,000 dollars. Framing? 10,000 dollars. Pretty quickly, you begin running out of tens of thousands of dollars.

We financed some of it (about 20K) on a credit card (AMEX) with a fixed low interest rate. This credit card has recently informed us that they are raising our rate (despite no late payments or bad behavior on our part) to 15.99%. Wait a minute.. what? I thought fixed meant you couldn’t change the interest rate? Well, apparently, they can. They just have to send you 30 days notice, and there’s no opting out.

Solutions:

a.) Got out my copy of the fabulous program “You Need a Budget!” I haven’t used it in awhile because, to be honest, I’ve been trying to avoid reality. Now I have a handle on what our finances are and we can try to plan accordingly.

b.) Started making major efforts to pay off the AMEX. Once it’s paid, it’s getting canceled and I’m never, ever using them again. So far, we’ve got the 20K down to about 14,700. We are getting some cash from our landlord (still hasn’t given us our deposit back or paid us for the 1/2 a month we missed due to being evicted) and I am selling one of our cars, and hopefully we’ll be able to pay it off within a reasonable period of time.

c.) I negotiated at my current job (I was being severely underpaid) for a raise and will soon be getting yet another raise (more on that later).

3. My job… oh, my job.  Well, that’s another post altogether.  I feel like I could write a novel on the topic!  More later!

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Way #45312 to lower your employees’ morale

Posted by unbeelievable on September 12, 2009

Don’t learn their names.

“What’s his name” will do just fine. Or how about calling someone by the wrong name? Katie for Catherine, Lisa for Liz…close enough, right?

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What is wrong with this country?

Posted by unbeelievable on September 8, 2009

My friend is one of the subjects of an article in Newsweek (check it out! I am SO proud of her)

http://www.newsweek.com/id/214989

… and was asked for interviews by CNN, radio, and stations like NPR…

…and she turned them down.

Why? Some white supremacists that read her article became obsessed with her, looked up her facebook profile, looked up her address, and began speculating about her choice of husband and made threats against her family (she’s got an adorable little toddler…seriously.. cutest kiddo ever).

I am so, so sad about that. They have won, in a way. It makes me so angry. And I can’t fault my friend — she is trying to protect her family from people who are clearly psycho. I would likely do the same thing.

All I can do is hope that their time for spreading hatred is limited… that at some point it will be come so atypical–so out of the mainstream–that nobody will bother.

Please read the article! I think it makes for an interesting discussion, no matter what side you are on. Just don’t be on the side of “na-na-na-na-nahh, I’m not listening!”

And yes.. it has been a long, long, long while since I have posted. Basically I have been miserable at my job and have given up blogging for a time. I hope that will soon change. I had a lot of drama in early spring that turned my life around and I will blog about it at some point. I’m finally to the point (almost) where I’ve clawed my way out of the dark depression that I have been in for months.. ironically after my “The Secret must be bunk” post. Maybe I was paying a karmic price for that one?

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The “secret” must be bunk

Posted by unbeelievable on March 15, 2009

I’ve been thinking about “the law of attraction” quite a bit since I watched the PBS special on it.

After careful consideration, I’m positive it can’t be true.

Reasons:
-I have imagined myself dying in horrible ways thousands or even millions of times. I’m a worrier. If the “law of attraction” made my thoughts come true, I would have been in about 50 plane crashes, 2000 auto wrecks, 6000 shootings… you get the idea.

– That ex-boyfriend who broke my heart would have definitely begged for me to come back a few times.

– I would never have cut my finger with an immersion blender. Who thinks about THAT?

In any case: I think that positive thinking does work and is a good thing. My cousin, for example, spends basically 99% of our phone conversations relaying how everything is awful for her and will not get any better. As a result, she’s been living a pretty miserable existence for years.

And we all know about those lovely positive people…you may recall my friend telling me that everything would be okay when I lost my purse… that the universe would take care of me.. and then we found my purse in the trashcan will all my vital stuff inside? Now THAT was the closest manifestation of the secret that I’ve ever seen. Coincidence? Magic? Nah. I think that her positivity caused her to keep looking, to never give up (even if the situation looked hopeless). Positivity is not a magic pill, but it’s always a good idea.

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The power of intention?

Posted by unbeelievable on March 10, 2009

I’m watching a show on PBS now about “the power of intention.” The principle (“the law of attraction”) has gone around in several forms, including a very popular book called “The Secret.”

Basic assumptions

–thinking about things causes them to come into your life (and the converse argument)
–a mysterious universal force is the source of all life, beauty, creativity, etc. (note: not God, necessarily)
–when you are not in harmony with these forces, you are stopping this force from working in your life.

To get “in tune” with the forces, various methods are suggested… visualization, meditation, controlling what you say, etc.

I think there are grains of truth in this argument, but it is so self-interested. Quitting smoking, attracting wealth and love, etc.

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Exes and the Cyberworld

Posted by unbeelievable on March 6, 2009

I don’t know how y’all are, but when I break up with someone, it’s almost like he ceases to exist. I’m not the kind of girl that stays friends with her exes.

So there are several…3 by latest count…that have disappeared from my life…and now, thanks to the miracle of facebook, returned.

Why do they insist on befriending me? No good can come of it.

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I’m going to Yale!

Posted by unbeelievable on February 28, 2009

I went a bit AWOL again, due mostly to my finger — it is just too depressing to type with one hand. I am now able to type with two fingers on my left hand (the ring and middle finger) and am really adapting quite well!

So, about Yale. No, I’m not actually moving to Connecticut, paying ungodly amounts of tuition, or studying for hours. Instead, I am “taking” two Yale courses online at academicearth.org The first is “The American Novel Since 1945” taught by Amy Hungerford. The second is a class in the Economics department called “Game Theory” and taught by Benjamin Polak.

The Lit class first: so far, so good. The syllabus is quite rigorous — about a book a week — and includes authors like Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O’Conner, Thomas Pynchon, J.D. Salinger, and Toni Morrison. I’ve only read two of the assigned books (Nabokov’s Lolita and Morrison’s The Bluest Eye) so I am excited.

First book is Richard Wright’s Black Boy. It’s an “autobiography” of Wright’s life from age 4 to his time hanging out with famous writers in Paris as a young man. I say “autobiography” because many of the events in the book are contested (as I learned in lecture). Remember when Oprah got really angry at James Frey for fudging parts of A Million Little Pieces? Wright seems to have had a similar problem. (Not with Oprah, as his book was published in the mid 40’s)

I’m about halfway through the first section, and the main thing that has struck me is how much I dislike the main character. Richard, so far, has become an alcoholic (at age 6!), burned down his own house (age 4), killed a kitten (age 4-5), and has, in general, been pretty much an ***hole. Actually, Wright and Frey share something else in common. I couldn’t stand his character, either.

Black Boy is (so far) surprisingly not very much about racism. It’s more about surviving through the schoolyard, suffering in poverty, and family dynamics. Richard seems to understand that prejudice and racism surround him but doesn’t feel it in his world. In fact, he admits to singing racist songs about Jewish people with his friends. It’s just how things are. I’m expecting that will change as he grows older and interacts with the larger world.

OK, on to the next class, “Game Theory.” I can tell that Dr. Polak would be one of my favorite professors if I were at Yale. He’s funny, engaging, and is able to run his class of 200+ students as if it is a small classroom. Quite impressive, really.

The class revolves around creating strategies to get the best outcomes. A classic example discussed in the first class is the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Here is the dilemma–what would YOU do?

Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies (defects) for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation.

To rat, or not to rat…that is the question. Polak points out that this dilemma is brought up time and time again in shows like Law and Order. So, what should you do?? I’m going to make you watch the lecture to find out. It’s worth it. In fact, lecture 1 was so good that I went ahead and watched lecture 2. (Maybe that just means I’m a big nerd.)

If anyone wants to be my study buddy, that would be great! Otherwise I’ll try to re-cap some of the classes when I get a chance.

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Posted by unbeelievable on February 19, 2009

I was making some carrot soup for dinner. “Don’t cut your finger off!” my boyfriend jokingly warned over the phone as he heard me slice through the carrots with my knife. “Oh, hush” [CHOP!], I said, “I’ll see you” [CHOP] “soon.”

Carrots finished, I add them to the pot with chopped celery, shallot, and herbs. It’s starting to look and smell delicious. But it needs something more.

I decided to be a bit creative and make a cream/celery root/horseradish topping for the soup. I get a tiny bowl and put the mashed celery root (leftover from Valentine’s Day) and added a bit of cream and freshly grated horseradish. Then I get out the immersion blender (stick blender) and put it in the tiny bowl. Hmmm, it wasnt getting very smooth. I kept adding cream and it still wasnt smooth.

So I make the fatal mistake of turning the immersion blender over. Ah-ha–there’s a chunk of celery root inside! I put my finger inside to get it out…

..and accidentally hit the on button with my other hand.

It’s only been a second when I turn it off, but the injury is grave. “Oh God, oh God, oh God….” I repeat as I run around looking for a paper towel.

I will give a summary of what happened next, as the gory details are, well, gory.

I almost…but not quite…cut my finger off above the last joint. I thought I had cut it off because I cut the nerves and couldn’t (still can’t) feel it.

The ER doc was incredible and worked on my hand for over an hour. She was only able to “approximate” where to make the stitches, though.

My boyfriend rushed to the ER and held my hand the whole time. He made me laugh, helped the doctor, and was very, very supportive. I was too scared to look, so he watched the entire process and told me what was going on. That’s love.

My boyfriend’s brother came over with bleach and gloves and cleaned the house before I got home. “Was there an ax murder here?” he joked to us over the phone. I owe him big time for that one.

My dog Coco flipped out when I came home from the ER. She jumped around and whined and licked me over and over and over. I guess she knew something bad had happened and was glad to see me. It was really sweet… love that dog.

Izzy, on the other hand, repeatedly tried to bite at my bandage. Damn dog.

So anyhow, it’s about 36 hours later. I’m going to a hand surgeon later today and am pretty nervous about it.

I’m annoyed because this entire thing was the result of an absolutely boneheaded move.

Fingers are incredible. Be thankful for your fingers today! I know I am thankful for all ten of mine.

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