Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Optimism is for suckers.

So this week, as you'll recall, I had that moment of thinking, well I should really give it another try, being more positive.

It was sort of nice to talk to my therapist again and have her say,


Validation is usually kind of reassuring. I thought yeah, it's not just me. It's my environment. It's these wackos I work with.

So I decided to try, as I mentioned in my last post, thinking maybe this is the darkest before the dawn. Or whatever.

So that lasted like, 2 days.

Today I'm trying to remember if anything good happened. I guess it's good that I'm only mildly annoyed that my experiments are not working as well as I hoped.

And I sort of pretended like today was Friday. So I'll go in tomorrow like it's Saturday.

Get it? Saturday. Hahahaha.

So I actually had a couple of days this week when I was kind of excited to get up and see if something worked. And I thought "oohh, maybe I'll get some data!"

And I had an idea in the shower one morning for a cool twist on an experiment that might yield more information than the way I was originally planning to do it... I love those moments. The aha moments.

And I'm kind of glad that I did manage to reproduce (convincingly!) one of the interesting results I got a little while back.

So that's good I guess... I should probably be more excited about it.

Um, yay. (How was that? Yay?)

But lately I have this feeling that I'm just amassing a ton of data that will never be published and therefore, none of it really exists or contributes anything to the progress of science.

Yeah, you know the feeling, don't you?

Mostly I'm annoyed because a positive pilot result I got a week or two ago has not held up to further testing. There are lots of variables, I'm still testing, but when the best case scenario is that your system is ultra-sensitive to lots of variables? That's a bad scenario.

And while in my "okay, I am troubleshooting and trying to be optimistic" mode, I had just about convinced myself I could deal with a career issue that I can't blog about.

I had come to accept how to try to be optimistic about it even though I wasn't feeling very optimistic. Or at least, I figured, I could be realistic and just take it in stride and keep going.

And then I found out why I shouldn't have bothered trying to have a good attitude.

Here's the ugly secret that is the main purpose of this blog:

There is always, always ALWAYS something else going on behind the scenes in science.

Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

Your worst paranoias can't even begin to cover it.

That feeling you get that people are talking about you or your work behind your back?

Well, they are. What's really sickening is, nobody tells you this until you've been doing it long enough to feel well and trapped:

They're allowed to. It's built right in. It's part of the way the system works.

This is the kind of shit that makes me want to quit science and just be done with it. Somehow I just can't stand it being so fucked up.

I don't care what you say, I don't think I can get used to it or accept it or whatever you call "growing up." Somehow I'd rather go work on something I don't care about. I think that would be easier than watching something I actually really do value turn out to be, you know, completely false and evil.

Oh, which reminds me, one small light of sanity in my week: I got home in time to watch the Rachel Maddow show today. I love Rachel Maddow. And I find it absolutely hilarious when they show those group shots of her with the other 5 white guys, er I mean, all of them with their short hair and she's as close to a woman as they could bring themselves to allow. I mean, sheesh. But she's so darn cute!

And in other angry, depressing news, I had to give up on mentoring at one of our new postdocs. I say "at" because she asked me for advice repeatedly, and I tried to be honest and really did enjoy talking with her, but she apparently took none of my advice.

This was confirmed for me today and I realized I was really kind of disgusted. Why do I waste my fucking time on these people? Should I just assume it's all an act? Why do they bother ASKING? I don't have time for this shit. But I hate assuming that. Some of them are genuinely grateful and I'm glad to help. But not this one.

It's really fucking hard to try to be upbeat about things when on the one hand, some people are saying your work is great and everything is going to be okay if you'll just cheer up, and on the other hand, some snothead in your lab is clearly sending the message that she thinks you're an idiot-loser.

Oh, I know she's an arrogant little twit and she'll find out the hard way (hopefully).

But something about watching the cycle repeat itself just makes me sick. I've really only known one or two grad students who were this bad, but not postdocs.

I guess I thought that if grad school had one thing going for it, it's kicking the living daylights out of most of the arrogant twits who think they know more than anyone.

I know that's not really true, but you know what I mean. If you can get through grad school with your arrogance fully intact, that's pretty impressive (or pathological).

Oh and in other news, one of my best friends on campus here got a job and is leaving soon. I might have mentioned this in a past blog post. I'm kind of depressed about it, for purely selfish reasons. Somehow he figured out how to get what he wanted to move his life along, and I'm still stuck here. And it definitely sucks losing one of my closest allies.

Meanwhile, my still-unemployed friend had what seemed like an almost-offer to do what she's actually really trained to do... after what she described as an awesome interview...

But it turned out that the company had also interviewed a guy who was a friend of someone in the company... and guess who they had already offered it to before they invited my friend to interview?

So it didn't matter what she did, the job was already his. Only she didn't know that.

In other words, if it were a level playing field, we wouldn't mind if we lost fair and square. But it's not level, and it's not fair.

And one of the things that pisses me off the most about that is having to work with a bunch of snot-nosed kids who still think it is.

Or maybe I'm just in a really fucking bad mood today?

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At 11:52 PM, Blogger loskova // accidental scientist said...

It looks like you are having a roller-coaster week, up and down, up and down.

There are always paranoias, there are always arrogant people, there is always gossip behind the back. What you can do is do not let it to your head. Why would you care? You are better than some arrogant b!tch and people gossiping behind your back.

Have you noticed that:

"And I'm kind of glad that I did manage to reproduce (convincingly!) one of the interesting results I got a little while back."

Tomorrow, on your "Saturday" you should go out and celebrate that!
(and forget everything else)

Go and recharge your batteries!

"Don't give in - without a fight!"
(this is from some song, Pink Floyd? I don't know, I hear it in my head but I never know the title)

At 12:04 AM, Blogger JAC said...

As a post-doc as well, the "hidden agenda" is one thing that I really dislike about science. I don't mind losing nor do I mind others succeeding. But I think that there can be a bad habit of trying to get ahead by tearing others down.

This creates an environment that is poisonous and not conducive to sanity.

Still, I am hoping that you did have a bad day and that the truth will be in the middle (between optimism and cynicism).

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Diaphoresis said...

Ms PhD:
First of, Happy Thanksgiving.
Now, many of the things you are encountering, happens in every type of job. Heck, it happens in every aspect of life.
As I have said before, the way basic science research is set up, it has become less of creative exploration & more of grant generation & playing dept politics.
And what happened to your friend, that is a situation I have experienced numerous times. And you know what? In the company I worked, I have recommended & gotten my friends hired. Most companies prefer to hire based on internal references. Even if they interview others.
Now on another note: how come your site has ads for ModCloth!?

At 4:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that postdoc you had to mentor "at" sounds like an idiot. Why keep asking for advice if you're not going to take any of it? One snot nosed grad student I have to mentor constantly comes to me seeking advice. And I mean constantly - often she will just barge in thru my door announcing her question not even bothering to see if I'm busy or not, just expecting me to stop whatever I'm doing to give her all my attention. Then when I would start to give her the advice she was asking for, she will interrupt or cut me off mid sentence with some "protest" against whatever I was saying which is really bizarre because it's like, did you want my help or not?? Or did you just want me to tell you only what you want to hear? It is so annoying. Now I just keep on talking and finish what I was saying even if she is interrupting me I don't care I just keep on talking over her babble. I really don't care if she gets thrashed during her quals or defense because she keeps asking my help and I've tried to help her repeatedly yet she doesn't listen so it's not my problem anymore.


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