Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why Professor Chaos is the new Domestic and Laboratory Goddess

Except that I don't really work in a lab in the traditional sense and I'm not very domestic. And I spend more time writing papers and analyzing data these days than actually collecting it...Perhaps I'm more like the Goddess of Paper Writing and Not Burning My House Down...

Anyway, here are my five pieces of evidence that I am a new domestic and science goddess of some sort:

1) I am now an Associate Professor (yippee!). I firmly believe surviving the long slog of academic attrition should make one a minor deity of some sort. I firmly expect that the following scenario will occur at the fancy luncheon with the university president: "Associate Professor Chaos, please accept my congratulations. Also, here is your certificate of deity-hood. I see you have been made the Goddess of Random Clicking on Computers, MoleWhacking, and, uh, the much loathed third reviewer. Good luck with that last one."

2) I have a happy and healthy baby. I know that millions of years of Homo evolution means that you don't have to be a genius to keep something that can't move under its own power alive. However, since Baby Mayhem is my first child, everyday I don't accidentally kill her is a miracle to me! You'll have to forgive me if I claim this as evidence of my domestic goddesshood.

3) I currently have more papers in review or in press or in the writing phase of prep than I did when I did NOT have a baby. I honestly don't understand how this happened, therefore it must be the result of my goddess-like powers that I am just learning to control. (ok, I can't lie to my friends, the truth is it's the result of collaborating on projects with someone else's super-productive postdoc, but surely that's a goddess power too?)

4) I have continued my graduate student recruitment streak. Every year that I have recruited graduate students, I have managed to recruit my top pick. This may not sound like a big deal to some but: 1) I am not at one of the powerhouse universities in my field but I am frequently competing against them, 2) while we have a strong group of young scientists here, we don't have any big name older scientists to attract students, and 3) our stipend is so low you can't even see the competing offers from here. This year in particular I am very pleased because recruitment was done while juggling Baby Mayhem, which meant she was not infrequently at interviews with the prospective students. (Though she is so dang adorable perhaps she could be considered a recruitment bonus: we may pay you crap but I bet you can't play with a baby this cute at Mega Powerful University...)

5) I now fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans! I think you may need to have experienced pregnancy to understand how important this one is. I'm not saying they fit...well. Some of my older readers may remember when tight jeans were all the rage and it was considered "cool" to have to lay on the bed to zip up one's jeans. Let's just say I had a flashback...regardless, I fit into my old jeans

I'm not saying all this makes me a major deity like an Athena or Isis or something, but I think I could be very happy as the goddess of random clicking, mole whacking and, yeah, even the third reviewer (but only if I get to smite them now and again).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Flight of the iPhone

It took me several days before I realized I had such nice comments on my last post! Why, you might wonder? Afterall, one of my last posts (I won't call it 'recent') extolled the virtues of my iPhone. Why did my iPhone not alert me to the presence of my happy readers stopping by, you might wonder? The story goes like this:

It was a dark and stormy morning...ok, it was actually sunlit and beautiful, but that's not exactly the setting one would expect for such a horrible event. General Disarray and I were rushing around, running late for Baby Mayhem's doctor's appointment. (Running late is one of my least favorite things in the world. It makes me stressy and distracted and liable to do stupid things that I would never do if I had a quarter of my brain focused on the task at hand.) Since Baby Mayhem is not overly fond of her car seat, getting her in and safely strapped down requires some freedom of movement. So, as General Disarray finished grabbing things from the house,  I put my purse on top of the car, strapped the glowering baby into her seat, grabbed the strap of my purse and yanked. Somehow, this motion slingshotted my iPhone out of the purse; arcing through the air it landed face down on the cement floor of our garage.

When things go really wrong for Baby Mayhem, her face goes through three distinct phases.

 baby surprise

Phase 1: Shock. As in, did that really just happen?!


Phase 2: Uncertainty. I think this was bad, but how bad was it really? Let me ponder this a moment. (This phase is always accompanied by a mouth that looks exactly like an upside down U)

Phase 3: Certainty. Yes, I have pondered what just happened and I have come to the inescapable conclusion that this was indeed as bad as I thought it was. Screaming inconsolably is the only logical reaction.

As I picked up my iPhone and processed this:

Not actually my iPhone, but a fair facsimile thereof!

General Disarray says my face exactly mirrored the 3 stages of unhappy Baby Mayhem. Since we were running late, General Disarray quickly bundled my sobbing ass into the car and off we went with me cradling my poor iPhone. Given all the abuse it has taken (baby hands, baby licking, baby throw up, being sat on, being thrown), I had come to believe the thing was indestructible. Turns out it is only almost indestructible. Amazingly, after slingshotting through the air horizontally 4-5 feet and dropping vertically by 6 feet, the damn thing still worked! However, using it for any period of time kinda felt like looking at the world through a pair of glasses with a prescription that is close to yours but not quite perfect.

So what does one do other than sob uncontrollably? Apple is more than happy to put in new glass for you for a mere $250, but General Disarray (knowing that life would never be happy again in the Chaotic Disarray household until the iPhone was whole again) found an awesome company: Mission Repair. They do it for about half the price (which also includes their awesome overnight shipping system - they overnight you a shipping box for your iPhone, you drop off your precious at FedEx, Mission Repair fixes it and ships it back to you). If, unlike us, you didn't wait until Friday to send your iPhone in, the whole thing (from ordering on line to getting your unblemished precious back) takes about 3-4 days.

So there you have it. What have I learned from this? 1) The iPhone is not (completely) indestructible, 2) my happiness is disturbingly tied to an inanimate object, 3) my baby's unhappiness response is apparently genetic, and 4) General Disarray is awesome (I already knew that but it never hurts to be reminded).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Newborns mean always having to say you're sorry (but not really)

dkfj;sdklfjsiodhg (hmmm, how does this thing work?) nfkdfndkhfr (oh, look, when I press on these buttons, letters appear on the screen. /wipes dust off blog).

I thought about starting this post off with the obligatory apology for going so absolutely silent. But I do a lot of apologizing these days and felt like my own blog was the one place where perhaps I would skip that step. With the baby and everything else going on, I've dropped the ball on many things - mostly things other people want me to do for them. Most of my apologies are partially heart felt. After all, I am sorry that I (fill in blank with thing that someone else thought was important but I didn't do here). However, it's not like I've been eating bonbons and sipping pastis so I'm only sorry they're unhappy with me; I'm not sorry that I didn't do what they wanted. So I write a lot of emails that have various of the elements below:

Dear important-person-So-and-So: I am so sorry that I haven't responded to you in several months. I know you thought your (fill in blank here) was incredibly important but over the past few months I have: 1) Had a baby, 2) see #1, 3) went through the tenure process which required putting together my tenure packet and giving a talk while operating on only a couple hours of sleep and nursing a newborn and I only had two hours a day to get stuff done because my baby hates napping, 4) see 1 and 2, 5) tried to keep my research program rolling by writing an assload of grants to funding agencies with apparently negative funding rates (I didn't know negative funding rates were possible either, but there you have it) and finally, you guessed it, see 1), 2) and 4). Much of my work time these days is spent holding a baby with one hand, typing  with the other "obviously, the predictions of the model are well supported by..." while blowing raspberries and saying such erudite things as "roly moly poly foly toly" (she apparently loves rhyming nonsense).  As you might now begin to suspect, my email inbox looks like someone sent it a Howler which did a lot of screaming and then exploded. Terribly sorry. Hugs and Kisses, Professor Chaos.

P.S. please don't respond to this email unless its really important as it will take me another few months to respond. In the meantime seeing your unanswered email in my inbox will cause me great guilt and anxiety which, contrary to all logic, will not actually make me respond more quickly but will only make me not respond to more emails until your email spills on to page 2 of my inbox and I no longer have to look at it (and thus no longer feel guilty).

I once tried to email an important but absentminded professor who apparently had allowed his inbox to fill to its quota and thus bounced back incoming email. I'm beginning to think it was not absent-minded at all but the most brilliant strategy known to man...