Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A mostly good day.

Oddly, I was in a good mood tonight when I logged in, despite having had two experiments today that basically failed (in the sense that I couldn't evaluate what I wanted to test).

Oh well. I can do them again. Hooray for non-apocalyptic failures.

Went to a talk, which was interesting, and gave a talk, which was fun.

That makes for a pretty decent day right there. I did some stuff, and most of it didn't suck.

Unfortunately the cold medicine I was on all day made me feel sort of anxious and hyped up. At one point I actually went in the womens' bathroom and jumped up and down for a few minutes in an effort to get rid of nervous energy. It only helped in the short term.

Spent a few minutes feeling sorry for myself for stupid bad luck things of the past, but then decided my new mantra is going to be to not waste any more time doing that. Am going to see if I can stick to it.

But, as often happens to me when I interact with more/different people than usual, or people I haven't seen in a while, my mirror neurons are still vibrating with things that were said.

One person asked "Did you get a job yet?"

Uh, no. I'm still here, aren't I?

That one is still sticking with me. On the one hand, I know she's asking because she thinks I deserve one. On the other hand, doesn't she think I would have told her if I had? Does she think asking is going to, what, guilt me into applying to more places?

Someone else was complaining about having too much pressure to perform. This person has so many resources, it literally makes me ill to hear any complaints from the likes of them at all.

Anyway... then I logged in to Blogger tonight and someone wrote in to say what bad luck s/he's had, and I thought yeah, I feel sorry for you, that's gotta suck.

Actually it kind of made me smile because the person sounded like someone I would get along with, or at least be amused by. Always good to know I am not the only one with crummy luck. This is why I like listening to depressed musicians. To know I am not alone.

But, evidently it's us against them. Some anonymous person, maybe the same one who has written this several times before, maybe someone else, wrote in to say that I sound so bitter and unpleasant and maybe that's why I haven't gotten a job. Isn't that sweet?

Sadly, this particular person sounds like they think they're offering a new suggestion, that I should give up on getting an academic job. I suspect they really think they're helping with this novel idea!

What amused me most about that particular comment, in response to I'm not sure which post, was that they were telling me I seemed unpleasant, while the author him/herself actually came off sounding unbelievably obnoxious.

Pot, meet kettle. Glass houses and stones?

Perhaps I shouldn't take these things so seriously.

I was listening to NPR this afternoon and they were reading excerpts from one of these blogs by a young woman in Iraq (sorry, I missed which one it was, is there more than one?). She was saying she literally dreads going to sleep, because every morning there's so much bad news.

[aside: Very sad that I write a blog but spend so little time reading other blogs that I have to hear about them on NPR. Must make more of an effort to keep up.]

I've never felt quite that much dread, which I assume is some measure of how awful it really must be to live in a war-torn country with limited electricity, stupid American soldiers everywhere and car bombs going off all the time. But I do know what it's like to dread opening your email in-box. I wouldn't want that to happen to moderating the comments for this blog, or it would defeat the whole purpose of blogging.

All of that said, and trying not to be negative, I wish I were better at blowing off other people's negativity. Even when I'm relatively up, it's hard not to let a couple of bad things get to me in my fragile bubble of mostly good stuff.

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At 12:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really think you shouldn't take negative comments to your blog too seriously. Or rather: You shouldn't take them seriously at all, if they are crap. They will always come regardless of what you write.

Another anonymous, but not that one

At 4:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be honest, I don't understand why you are still in academic science.

I am a woman who recently received my PhD, and I am seriously considering
saying "to hell with it" and leaving academic science, and maybe science
altogether. It looks to me like the most rational thing to do.

The reason I want to leave is that I think science is a rotten career. It
has terrible working hours and awesome amounts of stress. Uncollegiate
behavior is the norm rather than the exception. Salaries are pitiful: with
7 years more training than my husband, who has a professional degree, I
can expect a postdoc salary less than 1/3 of his, and 12-15K less than
someone I know, age 23 with a BS in accounting, who just started work. If
I got a faculty job, I'd start at a similar salary to the accountant, with
way more hours.

Also, succeeding as an academic appears to be taking longer, and becoming
less certain. I have observed the number of applicants for faculty jobs
here (hundreds to one, even for very narrowly defined positions) and the
6-7 years of postdoctoral experience of those on the short list. I have
noticed the junior professors here failing to get tenure (less than 50%
make it).

I would think exactly the same way if I were a man. What are the costs?
What are the benefits? Where can I get a better cost/benefit ratio, given
the effort I have already expended? If you check sci.research.careers you
will see posts from a number of men stating that they have come to the
same conclusions.

Women view science careers as poorly paid and too demanding *because they
are*, not because truthful female faculty have stated that these careers
are tough. I think I could make it, if I wanted to, but I don't want to
pay the price (vacations, relationships, peace of mind, and the other
things I enjoy). I am a good scientist, but I don't think the academic
system rewards good scientists or treats them well.

The bottom line for me is: Why should I want to make the sacrifices to be
an academic scientist? What's the point? Providing cheap research to a
company that doesn't want to hire its own scientists? If I want to
continue doing science for the thrill, I can do it as a hobby. That's how
most science was done until this century.

I don't think I am a failure for making these calculations, then looking
for another career. I think it is actually very difficult to examine your
life, notice that your career choices are not working out, and find
another career. The easy answer is to just keep on with the postdoc-ing
and hope that it will get better.

I think the academic establishment *has* to call me a failure, however,
because if the exploitable students and postdocs quit participating, the
academic pyramid scheme will collapse. I think for various reasons that
women might be more likely to quit (not because they're weak: because they
have more reasons) and it is unfortunately easier to generalize about
women than to reform a truly rotten system.

Women-unfriendly faculty don't need a reason to say women are unwilling to
meet demands or make sacrifices. They just say it. As often as possible,
in case it makes something true to repeat it a lot, or in case some one
believes them.

I don't mean to aim my angst at you, I've lurked in this blog
quite a bit and I respect you. I applaud
you for opening this blog, and I appreciate it that you are honest
about the difficulties involved in having a scientific career. I think
that being honest is the best thing you can do for other female

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

If you can do your science as a hobby, more power to you. I always admired Marie Curie and her trashcans full of radioactive chemicals, up on the roof of a building in France.

Unfortunately there's no way I can study what I want to study and do it as a hobby. The equipment isn't available for personal purchase, and even if it were, there's no way I could afford everything I'd need!

Anyway, thanks for your long comment. I respect your choice, too, and I think everyone should read comments like yours and reflect on what it's going to mean for science as a whole when we continue to propagate a broken system, and lose all the smart people like you.


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