27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: April 2011


I’m not feeling it this week. I’ve been meaning to post my 3rd installment on our trip to Spain, but I keep putting it off. As I keep applying to more positions, in and out of academia, and tweeting, I feel little motivation to write. Nevertheless, I wanted to share with y’all a great feature on the Nature Network on the future of PhDs:

Click and browse –> here

Also, if you’re a grad student, take a few moments to answer the survey.

I’m hoping to be back to regular blogging soon-ish. One of my resolutions for 2011 was to blog regularly, i.e. once a week at the very least.

See y’all soon!

Vacaciones 2010 – Madrid – Parte 2

In our last installment I showed you the first couple of pictures of our first couple of days in Madrid. Today I’ll show you what happened next. We had a really packed schedule, as we wanted to take in and experience as much as possible of gorgeous Madrid. The night of July 11 the Spanish team (La Roja) would face The Netherlands for the final  game of the World Cup. Ages before I had booked my ticket for Madrid, I remember joking with honey that it would be fun to watch the game there if Spain made it all the way to the final. As time passed and my ticket was booked, and we were there, on July 11, 2010, I couldn’t believe it. It’s not that I’m a die-hard fan of soccer (futbol), but it was a nice coincidence to be there while Spain got to the finals and I am thankful for being able to experience the entire game and aftermath with a vivacious Spanish crowd.

We had a couple of things planned for that day. Early in the morning we went to El Rastro, Europe’s biggest flea market. You can find many things here, from cheap and colourful espadrilles, to decor, shirts, food, jewelery, etc. It’s best if you get there early, so that there’s time to wander around, look at the booths and do some shopping. We didn’t have a problem walking around and shopping, but we were ready and careful as there are many stories of people being robbed at the flea market. I think we got there between 8:30-9am and left right before noon. It is amazing the amount of people who show up at El Rastro. And it’s only open on Sundays.

On our way back to the hotel we started to get a feel for how happy and eager the Spanish crowd was getting for the final game.

Metro during the Copa Mundial

As we were walking close to Plaza Mayor, we saw that the game would be broadcasted at one of our favourite spots, Mercado de San Miguel. We thought it was an awesome venue as it had many little spots for food and drink, so we thought we’d try our luck there later (we weren’t sure if there would be crowds, and if so, whether we’d need a contingency plan).

Our next stop was the Thyssen museum. The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza’s collection was started by the Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, who married a Spanish woman (a former beauty queen) who influenced which pieces were acquired by the Baron after their marriage. Like the Reina Sofia, this museum showcases modern and contemporary pieces, as well as art from the 14th and 15th centuries and completes the Golden Triangle of Museums of Madrid. At the Thyssen you can admire works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso and Monet … it is well worth the visit. I especially liked the layout of the Thyssen, and it was definitely less crowded than the other 2 museums.

After the Thyssen we still had a respectable amount of time left before the game, so we came up with the idea than since hon’s birthday was coming up, we’d try our luck and visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium as part of his birthday celebration. The Real Madrid plays at the Bernabeu Stadium. This was very fitting for the day. Turns out you can tour almost all of the Stadium, from the very top seats, all the way to the turf and even the lockers (which OMG are amazing!) … but it’s a pretty penny (~16€, or over 20$ depending on how the market is doing) … It was well worth the splurge. We opted for the self-guided tour (as guided tours started at over 30€). You get a map which helps guide your tour and there are selected areas in each level where you can take pictures and take in the views.

Estadio Santiago Bernabeu - Real Madrid

I won’t spoil the experience for you, but I’m including a couple of pics hon and I took while at the Bernabeu Stadium. If you want to see more you’ll have to go ;-).

Bernabeu from the top

Bernabeu mid-level

Bernabeu ground level

We toured the whole facility and even had a granizado … a delicious crushed-ice beverage with a fruity flavour that is so refreshing (like an Icee, but with a fruity flavour, I usually go for citrusy ones). The tour starts up at the top where you get the full view of the stadium and the nearby area. The sun and the heat were in full force. Luckily, many of the areas selected for the tour are shaded, and some are indoors. At one point, between the mid and ground levels there’s a museum showing different artifacts, trophies, and memorabilia from the team from its early days. From pins, to shirts, to shorts, to photos, to shoes … you name it, it’s there. You can go to the mid-to-lower level seating area, very close to the field (if I’m not mistaken you can touch the turf, if you’re so inclined). It must be an amazing feeling to watch the team play from that area.

We concluded our visit by walking close to the turf and the seating area for the visiting team. It was H-O-T, but I still got to sit where the other team sits, and OMG those seats are amazingly comfortable. After, we went to the lockers/washroom area. It is beautifully equipped, with many shower stalls, a jacuzzi, boards to discuss game strategies (we wrote our names there, I think, hehe) and finally you emerge where else? but the store. We bought a couple of souvenirs for the family. Needless to say, the authentic shirts and tees and jerseys were extremely expensive which we obviously couldn’t afford, but it was nice to see it all.

Back at the hotel we got some rest before the game. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Mercado wasn’t too full. There were customers, and most of them had taken up all the seating available. We found a spot near one of the booths and tried a couple of things. We were on out feet for a little while and eventually decided to just sit on the floor and watch the game like that (something which I wouldn’t recommend at the Louvre, since the guards get all pissed, trust me, I’ve tried it). A couple of people followed our lead and eventually more and more people joined. Thankfully it wasn’t to difficult to move around and there were a couple of TVs at the Mercado, so there weren’t any turf wars. After a couple of scares courtesy of Team Netherlands team we joined the celebration and jumped up like crazy with all the Spanish peeps and some of the other tourists who were at the Mercado watching the game. It was truly magical. I have to confess that I was a bit disappointed that the city didn’t have a couple of jumbotron screens at the main squares. Spanish people are jovial and fun and it was a bit sad not to share the moment with more people. Luckily,, after the game, many fans started coming out of the bars and apartments and started flocking the streets. It was amazing to see people of all races, languages and origins join in the celebration. Below is a photo from when we got to Puerta del Sol. We found Canadians, Asians, Latin Americans, Spanish, all united, all celebrating and partying, smiling and greeting each other.

Fiesta en Puerta del Sol

We finally made it to the hotel really late and it was fun to see and hear people around hugging each other, celebrating and just plain having fun.

The next day we walked around a bit, had some western food at this cowboy-ish/old west looking place (it was yummy, and it was nice to have free refills of pop!) and then patiently awaited to see the team. Since we were staying to close to the Gran Via, one of the main arteries of Madrid, we wanted to make sure to catch a glimpse of the team as they greeted the fans. The team got to our area sometime after 7pm (probably 8), and we were at Gran Via from 4pm on (we wanted to make sure we had good visibility and luckily we found an area to recline/sit as needed). Little by little more and more people started filling up the avenue, up until there was enough space for the buses with the team to drive around. It was so cool. Below are some pictures from the celebration at Gran Via.

As people started filling up the Gran Via

La Roja and the adoring fans with only enough space to accommodate the bus, all rest is filled with excited fans

And we got to see the team kinda close. See? We saw the coach, and the trophy.

La Roja - World Cup Champions 2010

Up next is Toledo and Cuenca!

Vacaciones 2010 – Madrid – Parte 1

I’ve been meaning to write a post chronicling our adventures in Madrid, Toledo and Cuenca for quite some time. Ever since the first time I went to Spain over a decade ago I’ve wanted to go back. I fell in love with the country, and it’s like I can’t ever get enough of it. Luckily, a few years back I got my wish granted, and then again, last year. I wasn’t even meant to go, but as luck and a bit of faith would have it, I was able to hop on a plane with hon and go to Madrid. We had a lovely time, and now I’ll share some of the goodness of that trip, both in written and graphic forms.

It is no secret that I love to take pictures. I’ve been in love with photography for a while, but it wasn’t until 2006 when I really, really got into it. I got myself a good point and shoot camera, got me a Flickr account, and since then I’ve been snapping photos here and there and everywhere.

The trip to Spain came about as a suggestion of my BF’s parents. They had been to Madrid, I had been to Madrid, but honey hadn’t. We were originally thinking of doing something small, like visit Montreal or Ottawa, but it was über expensive, and for twice as long, and about the same price we could hop on a plane and spend 10 days in Spain … hard to choose, eh?

We got a very good deal for hotel and flights with Expedia. It came to around 1500 for a 3 star hotel, smack down in the middle of Puerta del Sol (which is very close to the Gran Via, one of Madrid’s main arteries) and to the metro and cercanias trains. Hon is a great planner, and armed with some helpful bits from places like this we went about exploring Madrid’s wonderful streets.

Our first stops were at Plaza Mayor and Mercado de San Miguel. Plaza Mayor, is a wonderful place to stroll and buy souvenirs and have a bite. We had a quick lunch a few times while there. Mercado San Miguel is full of delicious food too. We found this place that served AWESOME fruit smoothies and milkshakes and it made for a good snack or refreshment after countless hours of walking and visiting museums.

Below are some pictures I took of the Plaza, Mercado and Sol.

Plaza Mayor


Mercado de San Miguel, Plaza Oriente #3


Puerta del Sol

The next day, after having a yummy breakfast at Cafe & Te (they do an awesome panini which I kept ordering pretty much everyday of our stay), we headed to the Prado Museum. The Prado is immense (not as gigantic as the Louvre, but pretty big nonetheless, especially for someone with heel problems like me). It boasts tons of paintings and exhibitions of artists like Velazquez (and his famous Las Meninas), El Greco (my favourite), Francisco de Goya and his Majas, Ribera, Fra Angelico, Durero, Rubens, among many others. The museum has tons of wonderful pieces to admire. We opted for a ticket to all 3 Museums, as part of a deal. The 3 museums, Prado, Reina Sofia dnd Thyssen are known as the Golden Triangle. If you go to Madrid and have time, visit all 3. For 17 euros, you get to visit El Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza. We used only 2 of our tickets (I still have the one for the Reina Sofia as the museums have a day of the week where entrance is free of charge, so we didn’t use our tickets when we went to the Reina Sofia. If you go prior to December of this year I’d be happy to give you my ticket, it should still work).

At the Prado we got ourselves a map which, if you’re in a hurry, is extremely useful, so we flew from room to room looking at as many of the masterpieces as we could. And it was awesome. The Prado has sculptures, drawings, prints and other exhibits which we didn’t get to see much of, but I had been to the Prado before, so I made a point of covering as much of what I hadn’t seen as possible. I’d recommend that if you love art and want to spend the 17 euros, get the 3-way ticket and if you can’t cover the entire museum on one day, come back when they’re open for free. Both the Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza are within walking distance, in case you feel adventurous and want to hit all 3 in one day.

Museo Nacional del Prado, summer 2010


Thyssen or Prado, which one to choose?

Paseo del Prado. Walking by the Prado

After the Prado, we decided to walk back to the hotel. We were looking for a metro station, but realised that walking wasn’t such a bad idea, as we weren’t that far away. We were taking in all the views, the traffic, a bit of rain, and came around this building, which we’d seen in many photos but never thought we’d accidentaly see. It’s between Calle Alcala and Gran Via.

Edificio Metropolis - Madrid, between Alcala and Gran Via

We stayed close to our hotel for the remainder of the day, doing a bit of shopping and eating. Next day we were going to el Callejon de las Letras, where Lope de Vega and Miguel de Cervantes lived!

Lope de Vega & Cervantes

Along the way we saw a reenactment of a sword fight between Cervantes (the one with the back towards the camera, his arm is hidden, as you know he was also known as El Manco de Lepanto) and Lope de Vega. Apparently these two weren’t on friendly terms. Both are among the best known and most prolific Spanish writers of their time.

We walked by the house were Cervantes lived, and a few steps down the road was de Vega’s house, which has been restored to its state when the author lived there. No pictures were allowed, except for the outside and the house’s patio. Entrance is free of charge and it has no A/C, which means that we were a wee-bit sweaty, even though it was barely 11am. Since we went in July, both the sales and the weather were HOT!

Casa-Museo Lope de Vega at the Callejon de las Letras

After that we took the metro to the area of the Palacio Real, where the King and Queen gather to meet with important peeps, but does not serve as the Royal residence anymore. We had our visit to the Palacio planned for another day, so we strolled around the streets a bit more, until we ended up near the Almudena Catheral (just a few steps away on Calle Mayor). Before going to the Cathedral we stopped at Casa Ciriaco (Calle Mayor, #84), a quaint little place were we grabbed a tapa (a small plate of goodies, cheese and ham or bread, or egg salad or aioli potatoes, changes everyday) and a caña or two …. or 3. It was super hot by the time we were near Almudena, and it was also near the siesta time, so a lot of business were closing shop until 4pm or so. Before stopping at Casa Ciriaco, we went into one of the oldest churches in Madrid, the church of San Nicolas de los Servitas.

San Nicolas de los Servitas - One of Madrid's oldest churches

We then walked to the Almudena Cathedral. It is a beautiful Cathedral where photography is permitted and the entrance is not expensive (a couple of euros, and I think it’s only if you want to make a donation, though don’t quote me on that). It was a nice break from the heat and we had tons to explore. The Cathedral is right next to the Palacio Real and it was commissioned ages ago. Construction stopped during the Franco Era, and was eventually picked up after the Civil War. It was completed in the 90s and has a statue of Pope John Paul II, which consecrated it back in the 90s.

Catedral de la Almudena

The next day we went to Goya’s tomb and the Museo de Arte Reina Sofia, Plaza de Espana and Templo de Debod … pheww. Pictures can be taken at many places in the Reina Sofia, but flash photography is not permitted. This is where Picasso’s Guernica is housed, and I took a pic from the room outside of it and I had a guard giving me a bit of grief (I didn’t have my flash on, luckily my camera has a museum setting), until someone had a big ass flash out, then him and another dude went after that guy … pheww. Dali’s works are housed here too. It’s an extremely interesting museum and I loved it, probably more than I did El Prado …. may be that I am inclided to early 20th century art. When the Reina Sofia opened, many of the 19th century and 20th century pieces that were at El Prado were moved to the Reina Sofia, which houses modern and contemporary art.

Panteon de Goya


Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia


Guernica, de Pablo Picasso


Yes, a Dali, and yes, you can take pictures. No, no flash.

Our last stops were at the Plaza de Espana and Templo de Debod. We were dead tired, because we had been back and forth that day, but it was well worth it. It was also very, very hot and I fell on my ass while walking around the area of the Templo de Debod. But besides a bruised knee and ego, I loved both places.

Edificio Espana, near the Plaza


Plaza de Espana


Templo de Debod


Templo de Debod


Catedral de la Almudena, desde el Templo de Debod

After all this walking and coming and going we had a quiet night. The next day we had a very, very packed day. It was the day of the World Cup final, our line-up was to go to the Rastro (Europe’s biggest flea market), possibly visit a museum if we could squeeze it and try to go to the Bernabeu Stadium where the Real Madrid plays. Oh, and did I mentioned that we were looking for a place to watch the game? We did, but I’ll tell you all about it in my the next installment of our Spanish vacation.


Right now my biggest regret is doing a PhD in something I enjoyed which is now causing me a lot of heartache and frustration, as I can’t find a fucking job in my fucking field … and I have less than 2 months to do so as I’ll be unemployed and broke by mid-June. Of the 6 or so interviews I had, only 1 resulted in an offer, which I could not take since I’m not Canadian. And the ones I think I’d be a good fit for … at least from my perspective, have replied with a big fat no or we’re considering other, more qualified candidates. Fuck you too more qualified candidates.

I’m tired of this .. beyond tired, I simply can’t do this. I don’t know enough comp sci to fool the comp sci people, the technique I mastered is not the main one in the general field that the technique is a spawn of, and I hate molbio, so I can’t do that either. I can’t do this anymore. I’m considering hiding my PhD from an application to McD’s and hopefully I can find a job that way. Hon just asked me, very sheepishly what we’d do if my the 1st week of June I’m jobless. I just wanted to cry … which I am as I write this. It is so unfair.

That’s all. So, if you’re a fucking PhD student … get out while you can (especially if you’re not sure the tenure-track is for you) and start doing something else. Even if you love what you do, consider your possibilities once you’re done …. don’t be like me. Nobody wants me.

That’s all.