Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Scientiae Seven: How We Are Hungry

Growing up, it was the four food groups, swimming lessons, and playing outside.

My body at 30 has more complicated needs than when it was seven. Now it's alkaline body chemistry, weight-bearing exercises, calcium absorption, omega-3 fatty acids, iron-rich foods, target heart rate, LDL cholesterol levels, glycemic indices. And the food pyramid, though its look has changed a bit since I last saw it.

That thin slice of yellow? That's flan.

Pyramids have long been a way of expressing hierarchical relationships. There's the wellness pyramid, the $50,000 pyramid, the Maslow Hierarchy, the thin plot-lines of the Da Vinci Code, and wedding favors to keep those bridesmaids in their place. If the older generation computer scientists were more creative, the Networking Stack would have been a pyramid.

So it is with a pyramid that I express the hierarchical needs of our scientiae bloggers: how we are hungry.

* * *

Maslow had it right. At the bottom of our pyramid are the necessities. (Rosa's Organic) food, sex, bathroom breaks. And sleep. Jane of See Jane Compute can certainly attest to the importance of sleep these days. Beautiful and Brave Baby Jane is keeping her up as newborns do, but Dr. Jane and Mr. Jane appear to be adjusting well. But Maslow forgot tea. As fundamental as a good number two, Jenny F. Scientist reminds us that a hot cup of tea is what lures her out of bed.

When basic needs are met, we hunger for more, for jobs that pay money. And at those jobs, we want to teach ourselves to work effectively. Kate is inching closer to a system in which she balances her four projects, and even leaves space for the mysterious "Sun Fun Time."

Between eating, sleeping, and working, we hunger for leisure time. Skookumchick details her reading wish list and Lab Cat laments the lame characters in "Size 12 is Not Fat." Zuska's leisure is the outdoor kind, and she points out using her garden of irises that the women's march towards contributing equally in science has not been a steady one. Rather, it's been like a game of Sorry; it starts and stops and sometimes has to begin all over again.

Still, to return from a leisurely lunch hour with a full tummy, a book tucked under the arm with a fistful of flowers, we are still left with an ache. Where are the engaged co-workers, the professional friendships? Where are the lively discussions about Kalman Filtering? Where are the collaborators who bring out our best work? Kat on a Wire describes her emotional isolation at work.

Most of all, though, our bellies growl angrily for recognition. Emma highlights her heroines demonstrating her hunger to see other women receive their deserved recognition. To recognize all people as potential contributors to science, Twice tenured discusses the delicate matter of single-sex events as she hungers for equality. Addy and Elli want to be recognized simply as REAL SCIENTISTS instead of graduate students, or secretaries, or "scientists-in-training."
But recognition is not just Turing Awards and social change. It can be a simple act, like Astrodyke's proud display of merit badges

At the very top of our pyramid? Good public relations and a functional and funky bag.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Spring 2007 is finally over in fcsgs-stan. In an effort to make my publication list "worthy," I submitted three papers this semester, with numbers 2 and 3 submitted last week. One might call that an academic death march.

After three days of movies, sleep, and retail therapy, I arise from the ashes to resume my workaholism. Here are the highlights from the three-day fallout:

  • Took the package to the post office I'd been meaning to send for a month. It was a return on the bras I'd bought online. Both were the exact same size from the exact same company of the exact same bras I'm already wearing. One was too small. One was too big.

  • Paid my bills.

  • Watched "Waitress," "Pirates of the Carribean 3", and the first sixteen episodes of "Heroes." Ratings: Good, Confusing, Addictive.

  • Spent the "Linens & Crap" gift card I got for my birthday (yeah, last year). Thanks to Moira for a new mesh strainer!

  • Went to the vet to refill the dog's prescriptions.

  • Went to a bar with the boyfriend's friends. The duchess and I kept each other company while the boys talked about oral sex and unification.

  • Went to the bank.

  • Lost three "stress pounds" in 4 days.

  • Bought a fantastic pair of pants that met 3 of my 4 pant requirements: i) drape nicely on my bottom; ii) comfortable; iii) funky.

  • Bought Miranda July's newest book with the Borders gift card I received last January for participating in a study. I don't normally buy books, but I really like this gal!

  • Planned two parties. One going-away. One birthday.

I just did a quick calculation. Between walking the dog and riding my bike, I've burned more calories today than I've consumed. Hm. I think I'll have a latte!

Friday, May 18, 2007

How We Are Hungry

I've been an off-and-on contributor to the Scientiae carnival of female bloggers in the STEM fields. I'm the host for June 1st, and I thought I'd take a moment to mention the theme:

"How We Are Hungry."

Interpret it as you like. I'm looking forward to the posts. While you are thinking about ideas for posts, check out the #6 Scientiae Carnival.

And if you are looking for some good fiction, check out David Eggers book of short stories of the same name.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dish Licker, Not Washer

I Can Leave My Attic Now

I have a photo of a group of friends, 12 minutes before a big final exam in December of my first semester in graduate school. There are 16 people in the picture, 11 of whom are no longer here. Only three left with their intended degree. The rest are "drop-outs."

Drop-out? Isn't that the kid who dropped out of high school, is living at home and working at Payless Shoe Source to pay his cell-phone bill? No. These drop-outs are all living fabulous lives: enoying fun jobs in big cities, getting married, making large sums of money, and having babies. They are making what my friend K. calls "Life Progress."

I'm not a drop-out; I just finished my fifth year of graduate school. Yet, I'm the loser. I have $607.40 in my checking account. I'm an unmarried homeowner with a greying dog, an empty refrigerator, and unfinished knitting projects. My front lawn hasn't been mowed in two weeks. I haven't called my mother today.

Still, things are looking up. The boyfriend mowed the backyard just before he left for his summer internship. I have a paper draft for a paper deadline that just got postponed one week. If I squint hard enough, I can kind-of-sort-of see a small light at the end of this tunnel.

So says Annie Proulx in "The Bunchgrass Edge of the World."

The main thing in life was staying power. That was it: stand around long enough, you'd get to sit down.

No (thank you) flying car

With all the freakin' advances in technology, my needs are not met. I don't want a camera phone, an iPod, or anti-bacterial soap. All I want is an e-mail client that searches my sent mails for the word "attached." If there is no attachment, it should result in an error message, "You have the word 'attached' in your e-mail. Did you mean to send an attachment?"

This would save me months of embarassment.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Gadget-influenced Hypochondria

I've locked myself in the attic until I finish a draft of the paper. I'm allowed downstairs for iced tea refills and cereal.

The days have been hot, and I've kept the attic windows opened to cool the house. The carbon monoxide detector has sounded its alarm a few times. I wonder if the doofer-neighbor smoking next door on his porch is the source. Still, I have this dizzy-nauseous feeling; perhaps I'm being poisoned by my own house.

If I didn't have a CO detector, I probably wouldn't feel dizzy-nauseous at this moment. I have little choice, since CO detectors are mandated by GradShitTownVille. I can't disappoint the fire fighters that stop by my place annually for inspection.

This is just to say that I'm a dedicated graduate student today. Even the threat of CO poisoning won't prevent me from finishing this draft.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Somewhere Else

I envy the characters in Haruki Murakami's head. To them, it is everyday happenstance that their bodies melt into another place, that without much effort they can be somewhere else. They go, because they must, because it's what is done. "Don't look for me," they say; they return when they are ready.

Sadly, I am not one of these characters. My body is too physical; it is not gleamed from a page. When I crave other places, when I want to be left alone to do absolutely nothing, I've no magical realism at my disposal. I've only my little truck and miles of nighttime corn fields. My brain is given no demands. My autopilot drives the little truck, and there is nothing to see. It's the closest I have to sitting at the bottom of a well.

Tonight, not even the little truck will help me. A paper deadline is ominous, and every moment is spent thinking about it, or my pathetic CV, or my ever postponed prelim, or my right butt-cheek that's been strangely clenched for two weeks. Nothing is fun when there's a paper to be written.

Tomorrow, when I mow the lawn, I'll look more closely for an abandoned well.