Various Lies

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Random Mid-afternoon Blubfest

For the first time in ages I sat at my computer and relaxed during my lunch break. And for the first time in ages I just cried.

I pottered over the BBC News website and saw this audio slide show about the restoration of Worcester Cathedral (pronounced Wooster, for my American reader...yes it's where the sauce comes from).

It is remarkably similar in superficial appearance to the Cathedral in my home town, and I found the views of Worcester and its surrounding countryside really moving.

I left home 18 years ago, and I emigrated 12 years ago. And I've gone back less and less frequently, and I am so fucking homesick it's unreal.

I don't think I could live there easily anymore, accustomed as I am to the freedoms I now enjoy, and I really consider myself an Anglo-American as opposed to a true Anglo-Saxon (I know that's a silly semantic difference).

but the weight of history is breathtaking. My home city now has plenty of history as long as you count recent history...birthplace of Elvis Presley and rock and roll, death of Martin Luther King and so on. But it's so recent. My country is only 234 years old for crying out loud! And that youth undergirds many American idioms.

The church in my home town, not the Cathedral, but the local church was founded in 98 AD for crying out loud! My local pub is at least twice as old than the country I now live in.

"Ye Olde Fighting Cocks", the oldest pub in England

So I watched the slide show and looked at those views, across a green & pleasant land, and I cried my eyes out. It's been 534 days since I was last back, and it's been too long.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I just had the perfect meeting!

I'm Program Manager. That's like being a Project Manager really. I guess they gave me the "Program" part because I got on the executive pay scale finally and they needed to invent something for me. I basically look after a couple of academic units and a research unit. It's a lot of hats and it is getting complicated...

Because the main research Unit I administer is fairly modest, and they cover the majority of my base salary, I have been surviving on Excel spreadsheets and hand written notes. But we're finally reaching the point at which I need some decent P-M software to help me keep abreast of all the pies I have my fingers stuffed into....and as mixed metaphors go I think that may be the dumbest thing I have written for a while.

Image search for 'Bad Metaphor' lead me to this site.
I'd say my metaphor was as poor as this young man's thinking that a half grill was a good idea

Anyway, I found some really nice P-M software I want (can't find the link now...), but it's going to cost a couple of grand per year to use it, and I can't afford that. There are some other sources, like BaseCampHQ and Zoho Project but there but nothing that did exactly what I wanted, and if I have to pay I want it to exactly what I want, not mostly or nearly what I want.

Then I found out that one of my colleagues has built some software to help her with task/project management so we spoke and I asked if I could use it. She agreed and gave us a demo at a Team Meeting a few weeks back. It does pretty much what I want and because it's free and it's her toy she said she'd let me in the back-end and I could customize our section. It's PHP & HTML on top of a Drupal template, and I can do some tweaks with that (not much, yet, but some).

I've downloaded Drupal, and to help me learn how to run things from the back-end I grabbed MAMP too. MAMP is a bundled package giving you the MySQL and Apache servers you need to build websites. Don't actually run a website one off your hard drive though or you're in trouble. As all this was going on I then found out that Drupal has a low approval rating in some pipes of the interchoobes and the naysayers scream for Joomla or other pre-packaged bundles.

At this point I threw up my hands and haven't been back since... up my hands. What a nice visual image. Epic metaphor FAIL is FAIL indeed. I am NOT searching for an image based on that search term while attached to work's interchoob connection!

Thus, I was stuck with a customizable P-M system I couldn't customize, which I had loaded all my main research Unit's projects into and there it sat. My boss was yelling at me to get it sorted, so I was yelling at my colleague to get me sorted and it was all very Keystone Cops.

Until this morning when my Wonderful Assistant and I sat down at an Executive Meeting she called...She is a wonder and I love her for helping my sorry ass out like this.

See, I'm used to running my own shit and taking care of my own shit and other gung-ho aphorisms that can't and don't apply when you're looking after a team of around a dozen people and 20+ ongoing projects. It works fine when you're a lab rat with limited horizons, but not in the wider world. I think this is the hurdle most of us face when we leave the world of postdoc science and venture out. We 'train' for the tenure-track, but we have no idea what it's like, TT or not, to handle the massive demands on your time and attention.

So, Wonderful Assistant told me she is getting pissed off sitting round playing sudoku and watching me run round in circles going bright red and screaming and not asking for help. She essentially told me if I didn't use her to the fullest of her capabilities she was going to quit. We talked for a long time about what my Unit needs to do and I explained the nature of my job to her: I spend 75% of my time putting out fires and building bridges; and she can't help much with that except with scheduling my insane fucking calendar. I spend 24% of my time doing "science-type stuff", and she can't help much with that because she doesn't have the requisite background and training. I spend 1% of my time, and 95% of my energy doing all the other shit that needs to be done, like screaming at my colleague because my boss is screaming at me to get the fucking P-M software working.

"Let me help," She said. "I can talk to your colleague for you and sort it out."

"But if I can't talk to her and get it done, how can you help?"

"At least me try!" She pleaded.

And at 2PM this afternoon there was a knock on my office door. Wonder Assistant and Colleague stood there and asked if I had time to chat...

...and fifteen minutes later I am sitting here typing this blog post; my list of corrections, additions and tweaks has been noted and already begun. Colleague was laughing, smiling, and 'no problem'ing the entire time, Wonder Assistant was taking notes on what I needed and generally looked rather pleased with herself, as well she should. And in 24hrs time I will have the customized P-M software I need, by Wednesday Wonder Assistant will have re-modified my previous entries & added the mountain of Academic tasks we look after, and on Friday I will sing her praises from the highest peak in this Ivory tower during Group meeting!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Random post about sex at conferences

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man at a conference, away from his house, will do something stupid.

I like to hope, albeit in vain, that those men are the undergrads, grads, or junior postdocs who are using the excuse of being away from 'home' of trying to tap into a "primal" urge they have had to leave by the wayside because they have grown the fuck up.

They are single, alone, away from home and horny and are doing nothing more than their societal and genetic programming tells them.

Of course that's bullshit.

Men are men and that's not excuse. It is, however, a biological fact. We're horny little bastards. However...hey, that big lump of meat in your skull gives you the potential to not act like the pre-programmed walking dick you wish you were, but to tuck away your vacation ego and act like you would at home.

Dear reader, the point is, I speak from experience: I have been that d00d at the conference, and for every time I had random sexual encounters with a stranger, ther are countless times I treated a woman...a fellow scientist as an object.

Not interested, then fuck off, whose next. I've got 76hrs to go...And at the time, I thought I was a nice guy, but it was just's the conferences!

Then you grow up. If you're lucky. Fuck...if They are lucky.

Now as a grumpy old boss type thing, i am more busy trying to do my job at a conference. And of course I am older and wiser and shit like that.

(I fear the wine is REALLY is kicking in now).

So. To the point of this.

It is troubling to be at a conference, as I am, and watch the gender/sex/horny-at-a-conference issue arise during our time here. I walked a student back to her hotel room tonight and I resented the looks I got from other attendees. Because we're in the boonies and we don't know all the I will of course walk her back while she grabs her cigs/purse/wallet/ID etc.

I also stood outside her room while she looked for her sweater. And bless her innocence she asked me why I was stood outside her room.

I shouldn't have had to stand outside and make "excuses" (oh, I'm smoking a cigarette etc.), and then later, talk to her with her mentor about why I stood outside. But then again I shouldn't have had to explain about that although statistics say that 3/5 women say they have been sexually assaulted, from talking to my friends that that number is actually much closer to 10/10.

But the door swings both ways. And I shouldn't have had to have left that gorgeous boy at the poker table, despite his urgent mutterings about his mentor.

I shall return to this thesis when it isn't so late, and I am more cogent. There is a lot to discuss, but I challenge you, dear Reader, to relate your thoughts.

As a man is it "hell yeah, conference season!" As a woman is "Oh shit, conference season...". Where does gender labeling begin and end, and does the lack of normal boudries make a difference, or did *we* make that up too?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Oh, FFS!

Dear sweet infant zombie baby jeesus time for a Tuesday RANT


  1. A trained neuroscientist

  2. A trained molecular biologist

  3. At a stretch, an electrophysiologist

  4. Have years of experience working with clinical data

  5. Am really fucking good at combining my basic and clinical science skills

  6. An awesome motherfucking troubleshooter, fire-putter-outer and problem solver


  1. Your godamned mother

  2. A motherfucking graphic designer

  3. Going to hold your goddamned hand every time you are given a new task

  4. Going to tolerate much more of you not motherfucking listening to me when I goddamned tell you to motherfucking do something

I am going for a motherfucking beer while YOU fix the goddamned presentation i asked YOU to do two fucking weeks ago which we need for FRIDAY.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Should be an interesting week. It has started badly enough.

In no particular order:

  • This afternoon I have my first annual review at work and I just deleted all the paperwork I need to get done by 10am

  • I have to get a poster finished for printing by noon, and I deleted my draft copy

  • I found out after getting in the shower this morning that my girlfriend had stolen my shampoo

  • I think she had also been using my razor because my face feels like sunburned sandpaper

  • I heard my congressman, Steve Cohen advocate jail-house retribution and murder on a morning radio show. Odd for a Democrat, albeit one who has seen friend's daughter paralyzed in a random act of gun-related violence

  • I saw a two car road accident outside my office as I was crossing the street

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Twatoo Time!

I love tattoos. I love tattoos on me and I love them on other people. I believe in self-expression and freedom of expression. I have 5 tattoos (and 8 piercings), and it's about to be 6.

I got my first tattoo when I was 28 (I think, it's all very hazy back then). I got it because my band was making some head way and it seemed an appropriate time to get some ink and "join the crew" (I'll let you decipher the fine balance between peer pressure and freedom of expression...the irony is not lost on me, I assure you).

I got my second tattoo when I quit my band, and I finally got a job after a long and horrid period of unemployment. It was a job that required re-entering into the horror and servitude I had been trying to flee from when I had quit my old job. I got my third tattoo when, because of the new job, I moved to the new city 1000+ miles away from everyone I knew and loved (the city I still live in now). Part of that tattoo makes up the avatar you see on the right hand side of the page. It is my favourite I think.

I got my fourth to celebrate my divorce and some other things in my life of note at that time, things I won't relate now. I have a photo of that one somewhere from when the ink was still nice and fresh. I'll try and find it (actually it's on my old blog, the other Some Lies, and I can't find out how to get back into the fucker right now).

I got my fifth to celebrate advancing on from Postdoctoral servitude into my current position. I didn't get it when I *got* the job, but to just celebrate the first glimmer of hope appearing on the horizon. That tattoo, in delightful "cell phone self-portrait" is presented for your edification, below:

Tell you what, you try taking a photograph of your own shoulder blade in the correct orientation with a fucking cell phone and see if you can do better!

Anyway, I have recently been offered a promotion at work, and I think it's time to finish what I started back in 2008 and get the fucking shoulder pieces finished. You see, like the sailors of days of yore had swallows tattooed on their chests, I want bulldogs tattooed on my shoulders. The swallows, so legend has it, signified "sailing home", because these birds would fly out from shore and herald proximity to land. (Should help you guess where I'm from too, because this is a tradition of a certain Northern European country).

and I guess my colourful spelling gives it away too.

But I digress!

Just as the sailors of yore had swallows to guide them home, I want Bulldogs watching my back while I'm far from home (and that's the last clue you're getting). So, 18 months or so after getting the tattoo started, I am getting it finished.

Tomorrow, Friday at 2PM local time, I go under the needle.

Or I would be, but having changed jobs twice and moved offices/labs numerous times, I've gone and lost the motherfucking JPEG I made the stencil from. The closest I can find on the interchoobs right now is this...

...which is less than fucking useless because it's 1"x1", the resolution is ultra-low and it's in contrast.

Dude. Fuck. Sigh.

So now I have to look like a complete twat and call Joe, my artiste du ink, and find out if he can trace the stencil on my right shoulder so he can reproduce it on the left.

If there is a fresh post here with "tattoo" in the title this weekend, you'll know I succeeded, and there will pictures. Actualy, fuck it, even if I can't find the stencil, I'm getting a fucking tattoo tomorrow. There'll be pictures soon.