Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The news of the day

Today's New York Times had several interesting articles:

First up, I was very amused to see that the French are freaking out over Sarkozy's proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

If two years really is a big deal, why does anyone act like doing two more years of postdoc should just fly by? Here's a whole country of people who agree that life is short, and two years longer than you planned is a very long time.

Meanwhile, I wonder if I could have gotten into a better college if my parents had known that I would have been better off studying somewhere other than my bedroom. Maybe that would have changed the entire course of my life? At the time when I was getting ready to apply, my parents seemed to think I should live and die by every single grade - especially if it wasn't an A.

Still, there are apparently federal programs for retraining those in the tech sector whose jobs have been outsourced overseas (this is mentioned briefly at the end of the article). What programs, I wonder? And why is it important to fund retraining for people who didn't keep their skills current and competitive? And why would we have programs for people whose jobs got outsourced when we don't have hiring programs that favor citizens over non-citizens?

Speaking of, I recently learned that there are services to help overeducated immigrants find jobs in the US. Of course, I'm not eligible for these, because I'm a citizen. I'm not aware of similar programs to help underemployed, overeducated non-immigrants find jobs in the US.

And because it's almost 9/11, I couldn't help reading this article about a girl who was killed that day and her family's efforts to make the world a better place in her stead. But I couldn't help thinking what a waste it was, that she apparently disliked the job that took her to the WTC every day, and had phoned her mother on 9/10 to say she planned to quit. The story implies there must have been some family pressure for her to work there in the first place, and she only worked there a few months before realizing she hated it. Sure, only a few months, but you never know when tragedy might hit.

In other news, I found this series of essays written by a mother who is treating her autistic son with marijuana very interesting. I think it's a perfect illustration of how most Americans come to find out about "alternative" treatments and how the medical establishment is often less helpful than anecdata from other patients.

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At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nar·row-mind·ed (nr-mndd)
Lacking tolerance, breadth of view, or sympathy; petty.

Surely, there are problems in the world out there that need addressing as much (if not more) than the postgraduate job opportunities in the United States.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger dotted lines said...

Thank you for that link on studying. I'm taking a course outside my field this term (It'll be fun! Right?), so it was especially useful. :)

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon, Welcome to my blog. Herein, I write primarily about being a scientist in the United States, and particularly about the academic career path, career options, and the academic culture. One of the things we do here is identify problems that no one in the world is addressing.

If that's not relevant to your interests, maybe this isn't the blog you were looking for. Thanks for stopping by to learn something about my point of view.

dotted lines, I'm sure the course will be fun. Or at least educational (as in, helping you feel more confident that you're in the right field after all!). :-D

At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watching the writing on the wall... this pretty much sums up what I am seeing and witnessing after a short period in my new post: "And increasingly, these new, lower-cost research centers, while perhaps initially intended to adapt products for local use, are becoming sources of innovation themselves."

At my interview, I asked about this; there was no direct answer. I think that I can give myself about 1 year and I either switch to business support only, or I won't have a job at the end of the day. (I do love science, but when it comes to putting food on the table, I am not sure that I have much of a choice.)

--regular reader of your blog

At 2:12 AM, Blogger Bee said...

I believe the Germans have their retirement age meanwhile at 67... It's the obvious thing to happen with life expectancy increasing. However, it brings the problem that old people may occupy jobs that younger people would be better suited for.

At 7:12 AM, Blogger Dr.Girlfriend said...

Life is short. Too short to be doing some thing you do not enjoy or that brings no joy to others.

I never understood people who hated college yet persisted so they could go on to get jobs they hated.

I do not want to do another two years of postdoc - especially when the reward is another 5 yrs being obsessed with getting tenure, followed by a lifetime tied to one place doing science only 5 people understand or care about.

That is why I am taking a year out to go back to school and do a Masters. I have given up on the idea of a comfortable retirement and am taking those years NOW while I am still young and able to enjoy them.

After that I hope to find another career I do not hate and save up to go traveling during my next year off - maybe do some humanitarian work.

Interesting article about studying - I have always found that I "go stale" and a new location is the best remedy.

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Tim said...

actually, anon just pointed out that you are petty. which is true; you constantly whine about your life, when so much more important stuff you ignore.

i think its a girl thing.

Also, you continue to find external factors that are responsible not only for you own misfortune but also for others. Your parents are to blame for your shitty college life? And it's because you didn't have your private study room? Give us a break. And that WTC girl was just UNLUCKY! does not have anything to do with her parents. What if they had pressured her NOT to be there, and she went anyway, or was saved, there would be no difference in the way we should perceive anyone.

oh and this is NOT the blog ANYONE is looking for, except perhaps out of some morbid fascination (like me)

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon, My feeling is that the definition of "innovation" has been revised to mean something closer to "profitable".

Bee, I agree. And good point, this is the drawback, obviously of raising the official retirement age. Of course in science there isn't one anyway, which is why I thought it was funny that France is freaking out, when in the US many of our scientists keep working until they're 80+ or just until they drop dead. Nobody can make them retire so long as they can still get postdocs to write grants for them. =p

Dr.Girlfriend, I agree. We can't expect to retire so it's better to enjoy life while we're young. Really interesting that you figured out a change of location helps you. I never would have thought that I retained information better by studying in different places. This article made me wonder if this is why I think I retained a lot more information from college than from high school, even though I probably studied more hours in high school (all in my bedroom).

But retention has always been, and still is, a huge problem for me. Which is why I didn't go to med school.

Tim, thanks for pointing out just how incomprehensible this post must have been for someone who doesn't know me at all and hasn't bothered to read the archive, apparently.

Actually my point about studying was that my parents locked me in my room at night and wouldn't let me study anywhere else, so that they could have the rest of the house to themselves and convince themselves they were ensuring that I get straight As by enforcing strict rules.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger KB said...

Actually Tim, I am finding this blog quite helpful. I'm just starting a PhD in engineering after working in a manufacturing company's R&D center.

It's very interesting for me to read about what it's like to work in a more academia-based setting where you're valued based on your publications, instead of the products you develop and sell.

And as Ms.PhD has pointed out already, the focus of this blog is "about being a scientist in the United States, and particularly about the academic career path, career options, and the academic culture." If the more important stuff to which you are referring falls outside of that focus then I wouldn't say it's being ignored.

At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of, I recently learned that there are services to help overeducated immigrants find jobs in the US. Of course, I'm not eligible for these, because I'm a citizen. I'm not aware of similar programs to help underemployed, overeducated non-immigrants find jobs in the US.

You know, you should stop blaming the immigrants for all your problems. There is such a service for immigrants because fellow-immigrants care enough about their peers to set one up. It is not as if the US govt has set up this service.

If you care enough for the plight of over-educated American citizens, maybe you would care to get together with your peers and set up a service like this? Oh right, all you want to do is benefit from such a service. You don't actually want to do anything to help anyone else!

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Thanks KB!


What I'm saying is, I WISH that American were half as supportive and community-oriented as immigrants are of each other.

American (scientists anyway) are too busy focusing on competition to help anyone, ever. Which is why immigrants have to do this for themselves (although the people I know of who work for this organization do in fact include American volunteers, FWIW).

I would make my own organization, if I had any idea where to start, how to fund it, or had a bunch of peers who wanted to join me.

Oh wait, I tried that. It was called a Postdoc Association. And it was quickly taken over by self-serving immigrants who refused to understand American culture and just wanted to use it throw parties instead of helping their peers find jobs.


Oh, and also, I might still be doing that if I thought that helping others get jobs in science was an interesting end in itself. I could probably get a job as a recruiter or headhunter or something if I wanted to.

Sadly, I don't find that to be an interesting enterprise at all. I DID want a job in science MYSELF. DOING ACTUAL SCIENCE.

Anyway. Yeah. Some people think I'm the biggest bitch around here. I guess they don't read the comment sections.


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