Various Lies

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Smoke em if you got em

smokers lounge, terminal C, Atlanta airport.

Phenotypes observed:
The Rusher: runs in, sparks up, chokes off a quick gasper and flees.

The Lounger: enjoying a relaxing smoke break, no rush.

The Cool Guy/Gal: probably still smoking cos the cool kids do it, look of mild panic on the face due to thick fog really showing what's going on.

The Social: exhales very loudly to clear the lungs, and also because very short of breathe due to trying not to breathe in the fog.

The Nervy: chain smoking, twitching, sweating in refrigerated air...either a non-flyer or has something on them they shouldn't.

The Cougher: alarms those around hir because this cough shows our guilt. That's not a cold or allergies...its where we're all headed.

The Blogger:  the asshole documenting our addiction.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Suits you sir

I'll preface this with admitting that I should probably either drink less coffee, or just stop drinking coffee altogether. My temper, never good at the best of times, is now wound tighter than badly tuned snare skin - ready to crack and split at the first badly aimed hit.

All I wanted to do was buy a suit.

I am speaking at a career conference at the National Institutes of Health on Friday. Dress code is, of course, the dreaded "business casual". What does that mean? A suit without a tie if you're me. There are far more sartorial ways of carrying it off...just Google the phrase and you'll see amazing combinations of trousers and shirts and blazers/jackets (supposedly optional, but I think not (the jacket, not the shirt or trouser)). It can be hellish expensive, but it need not always if one knows one's frame and good clothier/tailor.

Alas, for off the shelf combinations I am out of luck most often. I am blessed with a svelte frame and I can't "do" most combinations. Pleats are right out, as is anything double breasted. I am 6'3" and thinner than the proverbial bean pole.  Even though I've put on more than a stone (14lbs to you non-Brits) in the last year, and now weigh a respectable, healthy 180lbs (13st to you Brits) I am not by any measure broad shouldered. Suits tend to hang off me, draped like damp washroom char in a laundry.

I am also, as if this 'curse' weren't enough, blessed with a youthful face. So anything fancy makes me look like I am a graduate on a job placement interview.

Simple black suits and pinstripes work fine though, so to make business casual work all I needed was a black suit. I can take off the fucking tie and its casual right? Right?

Three. Fucking. Hours.

Three. Three hours driving hither, yither and yon. Betwixt and between stores I drove, looking at, sampling in, and trying on and yet nothing. The final store I couldn't even fucking find. (Fuck you google maps and your grey "mall like area" graphics. Some of us have trouble with directions. Details help.)

Every store the same - aloof staff, raised eyebrows, needless drama this 37yr old professional need do without. SRSLY - 'can' the fucking attitude...yes I've bought suits before, yes I know my price range, no I don't want fucking wool (in memphis?!), and yes...I mean a plain, fucking plain, black suit. No, I don't need a belt, socks, shoes, cufflinks, tie, tie clip, handerchief or godamned motherfucking cummerbund!

Cumerbund? Really? The poor bastard didn't even know the name and did the "Aaron Rogers Touchdown" move (Brits imagine someone showing off their new Baron Haarkonen anti gravity belt (yes, I know that doesn't help. Google "state farm aaron rogers")).

Here a neologism via my friend Prof-like Substance: Dude. Fuck. Sigh.

And so, failure in hand I'll go with Plan A on Friday: black pinstripe, 'English' cut, Billy London suit with a deep lavendar Perry Ellis shirt, silver cufflinks, and no damned tie.

The Usual Sartorial Grace and next time I'll order online.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Self Kerning

Those of us who inhabit the science geek reaches of the interchoobs would see the title of this post making more sense if it were "Self k3rn1ng" - Dr. Kern gained some notoriety in the blogosphere and twitterverse last year when he published an exhortation to young scientists in a major cancer research journal. Dr. Kern reviled the slackers and slapdashers of today's professional scientific youth - apparently we're not working hard enough and have the temerity to ask to limit our work week to 50 or 60 hours and maybe even spend time with our families on the weekend.

I know right!

Around the same time as Dr. Kern's ill-considered and out-dated rant the journal Nature blessed us lowly wannabe's with the tales of two scientists who had "made it" in the big time despite their relative youth. They had markedly different styles of managing their labs. Although it was clear that hard work and excellence were requisite of both PIs, one made the comment that a side-effect of his success was missing out on raising his children and being a family dad. He missed their youth because he was working 27 hours/day, 370 days/year at his research. A comment left by DrugMonkey on his blog at Scientopia really stuck with me:

"Then, my friend, you have failed utterly."

I, like most of my peers, put my long hours in at the bench and I am determined to enjoy the fruits of my labors now I am "the boss". Although I will never sherk or slack off and I am still incredibly driven as a scientist (and especially that the salaries and careers of a half dozen others depend on me now), I will be an active father to my child and husband to my wife.

Right now my son is sleeping in his swing/rocker across the room from me. His mom is returning to work and I'm allowed to use paternity leave to work "part time" for a couple of weeks. My stomach is in knots because of the amount of work I (feel I) need to do. We have a major clinical trial going live in a couple weeks and there is a last minnute glich in one of the data collection systems we're supporting...I missed those meetings this morning. I have two grants I'm supposed to be helping out with, as well as a publication waiting for my attention. I'm off to the NIH this week too and I need to send a bunch of emails and connect with folks up there before I arrive. I have an IRB meeting tomorrow and I have a horrible, nagging doubt that I'm supposed to have to reviewed one of the applications being submitted (IRB approves or disapproves human subjects research. THe meetings are akin to a grant funding study section meeting, but less fun). All these things make me want to call my wife and hurry her home, make me want to open my email and study my notes. Make me consider putting the kid in the car and taking him into the office with me so I can work. Seriously...

But if I do these things, I will begin the slippery slide into failure as a father. My son needs hugs and lunch when he wakes up (any minute now from the gurgling coming from that side of the room). My wife needs the support of her husband and the freedom to keep her own career alive.

So, a blog post. Catharsis. Lunchtime!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Some brief thoughts

Dear me, but I have missed you, Dear Reader. I have missed writing and blogging. So much has happened that I'm not even sure where to start or what to write about. As my second to last post makes clear, I am now a father and this has come with all the wonders, joy, frustration and a pinch of the terror that you might expect. In addition to being new father (and husband), I've also been promoted at work and am now the Director of our Office of Electronic Science Stuff. Our whole Office of Research has been re-jigged so it's a brave new world for a lot of people.

For those not in academia, the Office of Research is the administrative arm of the University that looks after the "big picture" for the scientists on campus - Our Vice Chancellor oversees my group, and a couple of other core research groups (the BIG budget stuff, machines that go ping etc.), as well as looking after the compliance groups that keep us legal and ethical (IRB & IACUC for human and animal research respectively) and the financial/funding arm that gets grant applications submitted on time ot the right agencies with the t's crossed and the lowercase j's dotted. On top of this, because she is a research faculty member herself, she also has to write her grants, write her papers and supervise her lab.

Rather her than me...

Anyway, needless-to-say there have been a lot of changes and rather than live blog these events I've been saving up stories to keep things fun and also keep them to the 75%/25% hyperbole/truth ratio I rely on the keep me out of trouble (and libel court).


Brief thoughts for now, as I stand blogging in the kitchen while making dinner:

1. You can never have enough diapers, because if you think you do you will have to go to the store late at night and buy more.

2. Your child's smile is the most amazing sight and makes up for the sleepless nights, endless poop and occasional screaming shit fits.

3. Either we all eat before His bedtime, or daddy is frantically cooking at 9PM and will get a potbelly from eating too late.

4. My menu of "10 minute" meals is growing exponentially without sacrificing fun, flavour and taste: tonight chicken Kiev with seared asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes. Easy, cheap and fast.

5. BLogging in the kitchen with the laptop on the washing machine is giving me backache. 

6. Hopefully much more to come and a return to usual service.