27 and a PhD

Home » 2013

Yearly Archives: 2013

End of the year meme – 2013 edition

I wrote this back in 2009, when I first did the end of the year meme. Let’s see how 2013 went.

An end of the year analysis… in meme form.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

I got married and switched jobs two weeks apart.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I’ll have to look at my list, but I do think I accomplished certain things.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not that I can remember.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My college BFF lost her battle with cancer in May. Fuck cancer.

5. What countries did you visit?

Just the US.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

A significant raise. I’ve worked my tail off this year.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory?

Mid February when hon and I got married and May 21st, when my college BFF died.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting married and moving in two weeks without losing my mind, or my new husband.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not calling my BFF before she died and telling her, one more time, how much she meant to me.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Just allergies.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A red table that makes me feel all grown up.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Hon’s of course, for being always supportive and understanding, and celebrating every little victory, especially during the move. My mom and my nephew for bringing so much joy into my life.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Republicans and Tea Party idiots.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Moving and moving related expenses, and wedding prep stuff. We’re getting married in the church in 2014.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Our wedding and the new job.

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2013?

I don’t listen to the radio, other than NPR.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

1. Happier or sadder? A bit of both.
2. Thinner or fatter? Fat, fatty fat.
3. Richer or poorer? Better than last year, but I still have about 3.5 more years of debt to pay.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Being more supportive of my husband and eating better.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Work. My God, I worked a fucktillion.

20. How will you be spending/did you spend Christmas?

Going home to see my parents, nephew and hubby.

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?

Hon, mom and vendors.

22. Did you fall in love in 2013?

More and more with the same adorable guy. And my nephew. He’s cute.

23. How many one night stands in this last year?


24. What was your favourite TV programme?

Anything from Investigation Discovery and Snapped.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?


26. What was the best book(s) you read?

A couple of books about Mormon fundamentalist groups. Always an interesting read. Oh, and finally got a hold of ‘We need to talk about Kevin.’

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

New album from Macaco, Se que no te va a gustar and Lisandro Aristimuño. Check them out if you like music in Español.

28. What did you want and get?

A new job, with benefits, a big apartment and an iPad.

29. What did you want and not get?

More money, less debt. A job for honey.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?

The one about magic stuff with Mark Ruffalo.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Turned 32, spent the day with hon, ate at a restaurant we love.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Hon having a satisfying job, even if it was part time.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Frumpy scientist, with the occasional sprinkle of something new and decent when outside of the lab.

34. What kept you sane?

The husband.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Can’t remember.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

Marriage equality, budget issues, women’s rights, the Sciquester.

37. Who did you miss?

My cute little nephew.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Couple of very interesting scientists I admire.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

Keep on going even when life throws you big piles of shit.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?

I can never come up with one.

Taking it all in

I know it’s been a month since I last wrote. Life has gone fast at times, and at other moments it’s gone too fast to even think. I’m still busy with work, lots of it, which is good, but it also means I’m tired (as usual) and I’m facing the last minute crunch of everything and everyone that needs to collect data before their grant/paper/presentation/defense are due.

I’ve been off and on on Twitter due to personal issues. I will share a bit, so you know what’s going on. And if you have any words of wisdom, I welcome them.

A month and a half ago my dear husband went to a NP at a counseling office, as he’s been diagnosed with panic syndrome. Hon is very panicky and anxious by nature and since his first panic attack (in Canada), he’d been on a mood pill to help with the panic attacks. The pill had worked well for the last couple of years. But this summer, after having two major medical procedures, and having to take an adjunct job that left him very dissatisfied, things came crashing down. He started getting panic attacks more often (a couple of times a month, when they had been absent since 2010) and we thought that perhaps he’d developed some sort of “resistance” to the drug. He tried getting to a psych doctor at school, but turns out they’re really swamped with new patients. Instead he was referred to the facility I  mentioned above and after the intake interview, he saw the nurse practitioner who suggested he upped his dose, since the drug had been working for 3 years.

Little did we know that upping the dose would sent my hubby on a downward spiral, which culminated with a visit to the psych ER on Thanksgiving. We’d planned to have a nice dinner, cook delicious (non traditional) food, stay home and rest from the hectic weeks we’d had. But it wasn’t meant to be. On Thanksgiving Thursday, hon woke me up in panic. He’d had thoughts of hurting himself, and me. And though he didn’t act on them, the mere thought sent him in a downward path. We tried everything, from watching funny shows, to driving around, but his anxiety wasn’t budging. Finally at night, when I realized we were sleep deprived and he was still panicked, I took the same decision I did in Canada 3 years back … I drove him to the ER to see if there he could find an answer or some form of treatment to whatever was going on.

We ended up staying the night after he was first interviewed. Once he told the nurses and doctors in the ER of the thoughts, that was enough for him to be taken to the psych area of the ER and for him to get even more interviews, more vitals and more questions.

It was a hell of a weekend.

At least in the ER he was being observed. His mind had a million thoughts, all being fired up at the same time. He was anticipating the death of his careers, blaming himself for choosing to study a topic that apparently no one has interest in these parts of the country, mourning the loss of the career he thought he’d be in by now. He was afraid I’d have him committed, them have the key thrown away. He was afraid I’d think he was crazy.

I didn’t think we was/is crazy. I just knew that my husband wasn’t the same man he was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That he was anxious, panicked, terrified. And that just talking about things wasn’t doing shit.

The next day we saw a doctor. I had to leave for work for a few hours. My bosses were understanding, though I didn’t give way too many details. I went back and the doctor assured him he wasn’t crazy. That in all likelihood, the change in dose of his med, and the fact that he hated the job he was doing, plus the stress from the surgeries and recovery had made the perfect storm. This wasn’t just another panic attack. He was depressed. This was serious. And before he could act on his thoughts, he needed to be stabilized and needed urgent counseling.

The last couple of weeks have been a mix of good news and progress and the occasional set back. But mostly it’s been moving forward. He’s being weaned out of his med, changed into a “classical” one. He’s taken powerful meds to try to get his stress levels down. Though he’s afraid of what will happen once he’s off of it (there’s no history of addiction in his family, but still, he’s scared). I’m scared of not being a supportive wife and of “dumping” him on the doctors at the ER when things get stressful.

I’m sure it will be a long recovery for both. Hon seems to be doing better now that he’s in counseling every day and that there’s a plan of action. But still, I know that any “little” thing could destabilize whatever “normal” we’ve had until now. I’m eating my feelings away. We’re both going on little sleep.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayer. They are felt. If I don’t write before the end of the year, I hope your 2013 ends well and that 2014 is even better.

It’s been since forever

It’s been almost a month since I last wrote on my little blog. With all my new responsibilities and other things that keep piling up (like wedding planning from a million miles away) I just haven’t had much time to sit down and wrote about what’s going on.

Life is quiet. We’re having some issues with various pieces of equipment; that has slowed down my productivity. It’s sad that the instruments are down, but it’s a most welcomed break from all the craziness I’ve had in the last month. I’ve had tons of work to do, too many samples to count, too many people to train (including a handful of rotation students) and meetings and seminars to attend. The good thing is that, compared to my time as a grad student, I’m not being “watched” by department heads and questioned as to why I’ve missed seminars. Thank goodness for being a staff member. But at the same time, the amount of work I’m doing has probably doubled, mostly because I’ve brought with me some cool knowledge from my previous place of employment, which has a few faculty members excited to try. It’s been very rewarding, but very crazy too. There have been days where I have gone straight to the lab, no stopping in my office, so I can work for 9hrs with just a 30 minute break. All for the sake of science. The good thing is that most of the students are very independent, so while we set up experiments and conditions, when the data is collected, they need little assistance from me, which in turn means that I head back to the lab to collect more data. And due to previous data collection binges, I’m already in a manuscript that’s to be submitted before the end of the year! On of my goals of 2013 was to be an author in a paper from my previous job and one from the current one. I think that resolution might just come true!

On the personal front, I’ve managed to stay in the 190s for a few months now. That’s a relief in the sense that I’m not 200 (206 to be exact) anymore. But I’m stuck. I stopped working out and the eating needs a reboot. This means I still don’t fit in my wedding dress, and the store I bought it from (on Etsy) has closed. I’ve bookmarked a few other options, but with the final push many people do in November and December, I can’t guarantee I’ll lose anything more. I’m at 194, which I haven’t been in forever. But that’s still off by 24 pounds from my first weight goal. I remember a friend from grad school say that when he was able to leave the toxic environment from his PhD lab and get into a stable rhythm in his postdoc lab, the weight seemed to melt away. It’s been almost 3 years since I left my toxic postdoc, and nothing has happened on the weight front, except gain. And I’m too lazy to work out. I’m trying to count calories … we’ll see where that leads. I didn’t want to get married looking like a pregnant woman, but I’m so darned tired all the time that I can’t even begin to think about exercise. And of course, I’m now 32 and my metabolism is just slow.

We just ordered our wedding invitations and I’ve finished some small projects for the wedding. Things will be very colourful, and handmade. Hopefully our guests will have a good time and hon and I will get to eat something and dance even more. I’m still sorting out the situation with my orthotics. My orthotics are too thick for my wedding shoes, but without them I just know that my feet will kill me, no matter how hard I try to stand up and smile. My feet get easily fatigued without the orthotics. My shoes are a bit on the bigger side, so I could try to get custom orthotics, specifically for dressier shoes.

I bought a skirt and a pair of boots over the weekend. I’m nuts. But I saw a picture of one of my tweeps and decided that I too wanted in on the fun. They look awesome together. But skirts and boots have not been part of my wardrobe for the longest time. We’ll see how this works out.

Hon and I are going away for a weekend in the coming weeks. It will sure be refreshing to step away from lab responsibilities.

I’m enjoying better health, or at least better breathing since I started taking allergy meds everyday. That’s a huge relief. I don’t wake up coughing or sneezing as if I was sick, and better yet, people don’t ask all the time why am I sick yet again.

Oh, and we adopted a new kitty!

When idols fall

I used to be dazzled by superstars … be them in sports, music, movies .. even in my own church. It probably stemmed  a bit from my mom being enchanted by them, and looking up to them. They were out super stars. They were blameless, and in a different sphere. Special. Spotless. Pretty much non-human.

I can’t remember the first time it happened, but I do remember that a decade or so ago, as my faith in the Catholic Church was crumbling, how the accusations of pedophilia within the ranks of the church still managed to surprise me, to upset me, and to horrify me. Surely there must have been some mistake. How can people that vow to be celibate, even consider a sexual thought, let alone an action. I now realize I was sorta brainwashed. I tried for a long time to reconcile being a strict adherent of my faith, while still trying to make excuses for the horrible, horrible acts that happened for god-knows-how-long to hundreds of thousands of kids and adults. How people in positions of power abused that power, took advantage of their position within the church, and moreover, the faith that people had (mis)placed in them, and caused so much hurt. It was a rough awakening. I learned that idols do fall. When they do, it’s painful. For them and for everyone that vouches for them.

It took me years to process and to try to reconcile the faith I grew up in, and the horrible acts that had been committed (sometimes) in the name of Jesus. Today I consider myself a (very) lapsed Catholic. I hurt every time a new accusation comes up … not because of the damage that it (supposedly) inflicts on the institution, but because that institution has some really well paid devils that will try to quench the desire for justice for all the victims. I hate that people have lost their faiths, not only in God but in the goodness of the human spirit whenever you see the snakes (ie. lawyers) try to defend the indefensible.

The next big blow came when an ex I dated throughout my last few years of undergrad, broke not only my trust, but my faith in him and in everything that I thought we’d built. Many things happened. And just recently I realized that some of what had been done to me had a name … it was called sexual coercion. When that “idol” fell, my soul was crushed. I was crushed yet again. Some I trusted, love and who had some power over me had again broken that trust, and broken something sacred within me.

Sadly, I’d been, slowly but surely, trying to desensitize from the hurt it causes when someone I admire, someone I look up to, falls from grace.

The most recent events are (very sadly) one of the few things that has caused me that pain, that feeling in my stomach, and reminded me that no matter how much or how hard you try to suppress a feeling, or how much you want to be “ready” (if you can even be ready) for when the next wave of idols fall, you never truly are. The blow to your trust in that person just breaks.

I don’t know what to think, other than I feel truly, deeply sorry for each and every one of the women who in one (or more) instances have been affected recent events. I can’t begin to wrap my head around how uncomfortable they felt and feel, the guilt, the pain. Because no matter how much you try to repeat it to yourself, somehow, you’ll feel guilty, when you did nothing, nothing to bring unto you the treatment, the harassment, the moment or moments of inappropriate behaviour. Sadly, as women, we’ve been socialized to feel guilty each and every time someone breaks our trust, someone interferes or invades our personal space and boundaries. It is yet another way in which society, our parents, our community, still fail us.

I also feel sad for his family (esp. his wife). I know I’d be devastated if someone ever divulged very personal and private information about my relationship with them … especially if that someone were my spouse. I know that if honey every talked about our intimate details I’d be broken, sad beyond belief. I know how frustrating and painful it can be to deal with issues our spouses have … and I recognize that I am not perfect. And that sometimes you feel a link to someone, a special connection and you want to unload some of what feels like a burden. That said, it is never, ever correct to do so in a professional setting, especially when you first meet the person. It is not right. It hurts. It traumatizes.

I’m saddened by it all. I’m saddened by the other people out there who may have experienced the same treatment. I’m saddened for the pain and hurt this is bringing to each and every woman that was harassed.

I can only hope that in this same SciX community, they feel welcomed and cared for. There are lots of people who want to offer a sincere shoulder, and all of our support, to help in your moment of need.

I know what it is to have your space invaded, to have an unwelcomed hug (or heck, even a kiss planted on you on Xmas day, at church!), your trust broken. I can only tell you that it will get better. It won’t be easy, but it will get better.

I am sorry. I am here for you.

Tell Someone “No”, Get Called a “Whore” – #StandingwithDNLee #batsignal

This is in support of dear tweep @DNLee5

This entry is partly a repost of Dr. Isis’ batsignal, but also I wanted to add a few words of my own. Even if I only get 100 peeps to read my blog on a regular basis, at least those 100 will get to see what to do when you get a request for guest blogging that for one reason or another doesn’t really jive.

I’ve gotten a few invitations to guest blog here and there. One of my fave ones was with the peeps of Scientopia. It forced me to write more often than I’m used to and I got lots of really great comments (I still do!). I love my Scientopia folks. I’ve also appeared on a few other forums (here and here), some which pay and some that don’t. But since I’ve now changed places to a position that’s keeping me super busy and on my toes more often than not, I don’t blog as often … and I haven’t guest blogged for anyone in a bit.

I was approached by the folks of biology-online sometime ago. I thought it was pure spam, since I’d never heard of them. I didn’t reply on their first try. I’ve been approached once or twice more, again. I still haven’t replied. And definitely, after DNLee’s experience with them, I ain’t giving them the light of day.

Whether your write about pure research, or share your experiences in grad school like I did, and others do, you should never, EVER, feel pressured or bad for saying no to a gig. Since I switched jobs earlier in the year, I made a point of not taking more unpaid gigs (unless the organization or group is something that truly aligns with what I believe and how I feel) … regardless of how awesome they sound, or how many viewers they promise to expose to my (not so awesome) musings. People and companies will approach you. And you are under no obligation to say yes … regardless of how much pressure they put or how flattered you feel. You have to do what helps you feel good, and comfortable. And more than anything, you can’t let people try to insult you or call you names, just because you say no.

Without further ado, here’s a repost of @DNLee5’s experience with a site no one has ever heard of, which tried to intimidate her and did insult her for saying no.


wachemshe hao hao kwangu mtapoa

I got this wrap cloth from Tanzania. It’s a khanga. It was the first khanga I purchased while I was in Africa for my nearly 3 month stay for field research last year. Everyone giggled when they saw me wear it and then gave a nod to suggest, “Well, okay”. I later learned that it translates to “Give trouble to others, but not me”. I laughed, thinking how appropriate it was. I was never a trouble-starter as a kid and I’m no fan of drama, but I always took this 21st century ghetto proverb most seriously:

Don’t start none. Won’t be none.

For those not familiar with inner city anthropology – it is simply a variation of the Golden Rule. Be nice and respectful to me and I will do the same. Everyone doesn’t live by the Golden Rule it seems. (Click to embiggen.)

The Blog editor of Biology-Online dot org asked me if I would like to blog for them. I asked the conditions. He explained. I said no. He then called me out of my name.

My initial reaction was not civil, I can assure you. I’m far from rah-rah, but the inner South Memphis in me was spoiling for a fight after this unprovoked insult. I felt like Hollywood Cole, pulling my A-line T-shirt off over my head, walking wide leg from corner to corner yelling, “Aww hell nawl!” In my gut I felt so passionately:”Ofek, don’t let me catch you on these streets, homie!”

This is my official response:

It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request..

After all, Dr. Important Person does it for free so what’s my problem? Listen, I ain’t him and he ain’t me. Folks have reasons – finances, time, energy, aligned missions, whatever – for doing or not doing things. Seriously, all anger aside…this rationalization of working for free and you’ll get exposure is wrong-headed. This is work. I am a professional. Professionals get paid. End of story. Even if I decide to do it pro bono (because I support your mission or I know you, whatevs) – it is still worth something. I’m simply choosing to waive that fee. But the fact is I told ol’ boy No; and he got all up in his feelings. So, go sit on a soft internet cushion, Ofek, ’cause you are obviously all butt-hurt over my rejection. And take heed of the advice on my khanga.

You don’t want none of this

Thanks to everyone who helped me focus my righteous anger on these less-celebrated equines. I appreciate your support, words of encouragement, and offers to ride down on his *$$.

Training peeps

Besides collecting a LOT of data for my PIs, one of the other hats I get to wear as a lab manager is the training one. Before I arrived in the lab, people had been somewhat trained by the senior peeps in my PIs labs, but some of them moved on right before I started, so I was handed over the task of observing and retraining people and standardizing procedures so that when something breaks we’ll know (or try to) what happened, on what step and what was not done (or what was done in weird way).

That gives me a break in the sense that I don’t have to spend every waking moment in front of an instrument (well, not every waking moment, but you catch my drift) and instead I get to sit back and show the tricks of the trade to a newer generation. Most people have a pretty good knowledge of the instrumentation, and how to get going, so I do give them a few pointers, then let them go on their way. But new people are also in the labs, especially rotations students and I get to spend some QT with them while they learn.

I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with most of this first crop of rotation students. Most seem enthusiastic and eager to collect data, and like I said before, it frees some of the time once they set up their experiments. I can sit back … and write protocols and procedures for the lab (I truly don’t have much time free these days).

I’ve discovered that I enjoy guiding people through a process, seeing their face light up in amazement when they get to *see* something they’ve heard in class but never witnessed happen. I live for those moments of discovery and amazement. I do like documenting things in the lab too … though one of my (500 million) PIs is too keen on writing everything down … which is a pain because we get into this back and forth corrections loop. But that’s somewhat minor when you compare it to all the other things I get to do.

I’ve collected (what I consider) a ton of data for at least 4 labs now … hopefully some of those will lead to papers in the future. We’ll see. And there may be a collaboration in the works too. We shall see how things flow.

Two weeks in

Week #2 of Dr 27 trying to lose some weight just wrapped up. Thank fuck. I’m so tired. Besides being sleepy as usual (I think I’ve been having trouble sleeping for >8yrs; honey just reminded me he used to tell me stories late at night when we started dating so I’d go to sleep … it worked sometimes). I’m still sleepy, regardless of regular exercise. I’ve been a bit less faithful with my all fruit/all veggies/all wheat lunches, mostly because I couldn’t find my pitas at the supermarket.

Hon and I are working out together, for 30 mins, almost every day of the week. But Monday I had to go to my follow up on the Mirena appt and didn’t move a finger, and on Tuesday I was too tired  and lazy to get up. According to my medical chart, I’ve dropped 3.9 pounds since the last time they saw me (a month ago). My blood pressure is also better (100/70). But my muscles are a bit sore and … did I mention that I was oh so very tired still? I haven’t (obviously) lost any inches from my gut or boobs … but I’m hanging on to hope … we’ll see.

I still don’t like working out, but my knees are not hurting and I can now walk a bit faster.

I hope to go back to bringing lunch every day next week. And damn it I will find my stupid whole wheat mini pitas somewhere! This week I was lazy (and far too busy) to sit down on my desk and eat (except for Tuesday and today). Too many things are falling apart in the lab at the same time, and I feel like I couldn’t catch a break.

Hopefully this weekend we’ll decompress a bit. We’re hoping to go to a fall crafts thing and perhaps catch a game. We need to take hon’s bike to a repair shop to have it looked at, so we can continue with the #bikedouchery. We’ll see how I can hang on to the getting up in the morning and doing exercise and eating healthy thing.

PS. As for the Mirena … I still have a bit of spotting, but the thing is in place. My boobs have not hurt one bit since my last (heavy) period which was in August. I’m hoping that once the stupid spotting is gone, I can catch a break from wearing pads … and perhaps even from having a period. I really won’t know for a few more months. If the bleeding becomes heavy, or it doesn’t stop, the Mirena will have to come off. But we’ll see. So far my breasts are doing OK and I’m hoping they’ll stay like that. And I’m getting protection from having babies. So those are all good things. This has been your Mirena report for September.