Friday, March 30, 2007

I hate being paranoid.

Lately I am wishing I had rose-coloured glasses when it comes to the people in my field.

For a while I have been trying to ignore the fact that I don't trust the other postdocs in my lab.

We all know we will be competing for jobs the way we are already competing for papers and the PI's attention. And it's hard to pretend it's not happening. It's a source of constant stress for me.

I always try to be up front with people and just assume, well we are all smart enough, or at least I know I am, so why be insecure? There should be enough work to go around, we all have different interests and different strengths, we can try to work together.


But they always play dumb when it suits them. We are supposed to share reagents, but they can't remember where anything is when I need it. Or they give me an aliquot of the wrong thing.

Part of this is the PI's fault. If there were a system in place where we could all access everything independently, they wouldn't be able to do this.

Instead I am left making tough decisions about whether it's worth it to spend what little reagent money I have for my own project duplicating lab reagents, just so I can have a stock that I know is good, and keep it somewhere safe from their greedy little fingers.

It doesn't help that they are almost all men. I recently heard someone refer to the one bay in the lab that has three women and one guy as the "girly bay."

Nobody calls any of the bays with four men the "manly bays."

I mean, give me a break. Apparently it's still so unusual that it bears commenting when there are more than two women working in the same place!

Then yesterday, there was a speaker here who is pretty big in our field. I really enjoyed his talk and found myself thinking maybe I made a mistake not going to do a postdoc with him.

Now I should back up and say that I never applied to his lab, because a friend of mine interviewed there and told me a horrifying story. She said that when she finally had five minutes to use the restroom, the women from the lab cornered her and told her the PI was a misogynistic pig and that she shouldn't go there, because she would definitely regret it.

She said she had no way of knowing if it was true or if this was some kind of competitive, manipulative ploy to scare her off, but it worked either way because she said the atmosphere was decidedly scary.

So she went elsewhere, and I never applied to even go visit.

Maybe a mistake, I don't know.

So I enjoyed this guy's talk enough to have second thoughts. But then I introduced myself afterwards and asked him some questions, and I am still feeling uncomfortable about it.

He was SO dismissive, as happens to me about half the time with visiting speakers, that the encounter is still ringing in my ears. I don't know if I made a mistake talking to him, or if I should send him my paper to review.

Yes, I'm that conflicted about it.

They all say you have to win over your biggest critics, find out what they want to know and then show them why you're right.

But some days I just want to crawl under my desk and hide.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Latest salary statistic.

Was reading Jane the other day... how do they do that?

It always arrives, quite magically, the day I get my period.


Anyway the most striking statistic, and one that stayed with me all week, was from a sidebar on the average price of a car, how much you should spend on one, etc.

Factoid of the week: The average salary of a car salesman (or sales person, if you will) is ~$45,000. This is with no educational requirements, maybe a high school degree, but maybe not even that.

Forty five thousand a year is more than I make now.

I guess I'm thinking about this because it's tax time, and looking at my YTD totals for 200x always makes me want to cry.

Is this really all I'm worth? I know it's a quintessentially American worry, as if a person's worth were measured in dollars alone. But it does send a message that I should be grateful for the hell I'm in, like I'm some kind of lower caste citizen.

And it's looking more and more like I could and probably would have to stay in a postdoc-ish position for another 1-3 years before I can get out of here. Not sure how much postdoc and how much "ish" I would be required to put up with, or how on earth I will last that long.

I'm trying not to think about it, just take it one day at a time, but it's hard to function that way, especially when my experiments usually take at least a couple of days, if not weeks, from start to finish.

And considering this was actually a pretty good week, I'm trying hard to forget that there are likely more bad weeks soon enough, on the horizon.

Meanwhile, some of my "colleagues" have been coming back from faculty interviews lately, with varying reports. There are the ones who say it went horribly and expect to have to do it all again next year. Bad for them. Bad for me if I apply then, since I'll be competing with that many more people, and they will have had a year of practice run interviews.

There are years and years of these backlog people, still looking for jobs. So it just gets harder and harder for everyone... and you can see why search committees start to be tempted to take these people with nearly a decade of experience over someone with half that much. They have nothing if not tenacity.

Then there are the ones who already have ranked all the schools in order of where they'd like to go, and are now trying not to lose sleep while waiting to hear if the schools ranked them similarly, like med school match game.

My heart goes out to them, it really does. At least they made it this far.

Then there are the ones who had several interviews, but refuse to reveal any opinions about how it went or where they'd most like to be. Can't learn much from them. I guess I'll just have to wait and see where they go, and assume that was the best fit for them, for whatever reasons, but I likely won't hear much about the places they didn't choose.

So I am sitting on the sidelines, feeling like the third string player cleaning out the gatorade buckets while everyone else is in the game.

Oh wait, those guys get paid more than I do, too.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

I hate Windows.

I hate it.
I hate it.
I hate it.
I just wasted half an hour of my life trying to reset folder permissions, only to find out that it was one of these automatic parent-child things taking over, so that no matter what I did, my folder kept reverting to read-only...


You non-mac users have no clue how much time you're wasting.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

All's well that ends with YFS not killing anyone after all.

Today did not turn out at all like I expected.

Despite a morning full of irritating reminders that nobody seems to listen to me around here, and reminders that I'm the only female far too often at work, the day ended on a good note.

Most everyone has already gone home, and I am loving the peace and quiet.

I am eating a healthy snack, and then I will go to the gym. So there.

I am also loving the fact that, with some help from colleagues and some genuine give and take- equitable, even!- I made some serious progress today.

Leaps and bounds.

Amazing how sometimes you can bang away at something for years, and then one day it just works, exactly like it was supposed to, because you finally got it right.

I love those days. I love knowing that I was right to think it would work eventually.

Reaffirming whatever I have that passes for faith in myself and in science.

So nevermind that they measure things in man hours.

Nevermind that the guy complained by telling a story about his wife, and then ending by generalizing his problem to all wives, everywhere. Nevermind that guys like him make me never want to get married, ever.

Nevermind that when I say it, nothing happens, so I repeat it and clarify it and put it in writing, but nothing happens. But when a man says it, it happens instantaneously.

Nevermind all of that. Fuck em.

Man hours must be longer than woman hours, so far as I can tell.

And the men I've found who are worth working with know that, or work faster to keep up.


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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Indulge me for a moment

Do you want a life of meaning, or a life of happiness?
neither, I want to suffer while doing nothing worhwhile free polls

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How did I miss this? Happy Women Professor Posts.

Despite having come to the party a bit late, these made me laugh.

They are now bookmarked for the answer to the question: Why am I still doing this?

funny one

less funny one

disgustingly happy one

even more disgustingly happy one


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Meet Japanese Women

This, from a Google Ad on the sidebar of my last post.

Oh Google Ads, What Are You DOING???

Sigh. I am too tired to write now. Or do much of anything else. Must use my last waking breath to brush teeth, wash face, change into pj's...

And tomorrow I get to do it all again...

FYI, I looove the surreal poetry of the random keyword labels for posts-


Monday, March 05, 2007

On barbies, bulldozers, roles and expectations

An alert reader sent me a few articles, you'll note the last two were posted in a comment on the most recent entry here.

This first one has some great lines in it that I love, like the following universal truism:

But when my head finally hits the pillow, I remember that I didn't finish loading the dishwasher and I forgot to transfer laundry from the washer to the dryer.

Does your life, too, seem to straddle two different worlds, one at work and one at home? Does it feel like there aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week to split between them and give them both their due?

But I think the most important insight in this article is that there are three major areas, the balancing of which creates tension for most of us:





cultural expectations

Ain't that the truth?

I think it's that last one that bothers me the most, and it's why I'm becoming more of a raging feminist the older I get.

I really believe we need to rethink family structure and gender roles completely. The old ways make no sense to me, and they never did.

But the older I get, the more they are applied to me whether I like them or not.

It was clear when I was a child. Things are very sexist around very young kids. Pink and blue. Barbie and bulldozers. This is still true, 30-ish years later.

I realize that there must have been some kind of protective bubble for a few years in the middle. Being a teenager, I guess you're too horny to mind, and everyone is awkward and experimenting, and no one is really going to hold you to any decisions you make about how you dress or what you do, so long as you don't get pregnant. Most every stupid decision is reversible, or at least mostly repairable, at that age.

College was also a lovely bubble of idealistic, academic liberal forward thinking and women's studies classes... but clearly I did a great job of denying the significance of the fact that I had to call an escort to get home safely from lab every night.

God, how did I miss that??!
It wasn't just my campus, it was most people and most places.

I think I'm finally getting it.

Looking back, even grad school was not so bad, at least for me, since most of us wore more or less the same clothes (baggy sweatshirts and ratty jeans, anyone?) regardless of gender, age, religion, country of origin, or orientation. This uniform, and the relatively even distribution of male:female students, made for a very equitable environment in my grad program, even if we didn't receive such equitable treatment in each individual lab.

But now, as we approach the end of the Female of Childbearing Age, I for one am getting clobbered by the gender roles again. I'm struggling far too much with what to wear, and how to handle the awkward professional social settings like getting drinks or lunch with people from work. The women want to talk about their kids, mostly, which I mostly try to avoid.

And if I'm not talking about work with men, they want to dissect me because they can't figure out where I fit, when there are only the two boxes labeled "Us" and "Them". I think one of the things I'm constantly doing is trying to stretch between these two worlds: the one where I am shopping in the women's section or annoyed if my Ipex bras aren't clean... and the one where I am trying to convince the guys to take me seriously.

Am I sure I take myself seriously? And is it better to take yourself too seriously, or not seriously enough?

So now I've gone on a long tangent. I'll have to pick this up some other time if we want to discuss the other article, too.

This article also lists various sources of trouble, the top two of which are the Glass Ceiling and the Workload/Role Overload.

Maybe I've said this here before, but lately I think the Glass Ceiling is a misleading misnomer. I don't see any women doing what I want to do. I don't see them being what I want to be. Isn't the total lack of role models a problem for that whole analogy? Aren't you supposed to be able to see where it is you want to be, even if you can't get there? If you can't see through it, it's not really made of glass anymore, is it?

How much ground have we lost since the '70s, when things were supposedly improving at a rapid rate? Doesn't it seem like things are going backwards when spike heels are in again??

But the Role Overload is definitely a problem. I am tired of running a one-woman show. I am my own director, producer, lighting technican, stage manager, librettist, orchestra, costume designer... It's definitely too many hats for too little applause.

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