I had a baby!

It all happened mostly Wednesday night, so that at 8:40 am on Christmas Eve, she was born! She was 7 lbs 10 oz, and all I will say for now (maybe more later about the experience) is that whoever invented epidurals and started using them in childbirth should win the Nobel Prize.

Here she is with her daddy:


Now is when I really, REALLY wish I lived closer to where I work. I've been stuck at home for almost two weeks now (because I'm not supposed to travel further than an hour from my hospital at this point), working on grants and other computer-based things from here. The first week was GREAT, it was so nice to have the peace and quiet and comfort of being at home, I got a lot done and felt very calm. But this second week has been increasingly sucktackular. I am on edge with every weird feeling, thinking "maybe I'm going into labor now!" (but never am), trying to get work done and forcing myself to read the abstracts and fill out paperwork for the meetings I have coming up this spring. All the while there's nothing to distract me but my sleeping dog and "A Baby Story" on TLC; nobody to talk to, nowhere to get much of a change of scenery except for the mall (and I don't need to BUY any more STUFF--we've been BUYING STUFF for months for this baby!!!), wondering how my lab is doing, wondering when this baby is going to come out.

I still have some cleaning stuff I want to do, but a lot of it is vacuuming, and I need help carrying the vacuum downstairs and moving the furniture around. I might end up doing it anyway, just very, very slowly. One chair at a time.

If I just lived close to campus I could go potter around in my office there and at least get to TALK to people. I don't know anyone in our town or anywhere nearby, so I can't even go have lunch or coffee with friends or family or something. I can tell I'd make a really, really bad stay-at-home mom, given that I haven't even lasted a week before getting extremely antsy and starting to mope out with the boredom of this constant lonely scenery every day. Bleh.

No love for the pregnant lady

You know, I was looking forward to my Minnesotan-"Oh noh, it's okahyee, I don't want to bother anyone!"-self getting to accept some sympathetic charity door-holding, seat-offering and otherwise special treatment you are supposed to get when you're pregnant. But have I gotten any love?? NO!!! I have had none of those kindnesses from strangers, in fact, I've had people budge in front of me in lines and rush to get a seat before I do many a time. I even had one experience at 8.5 months at a gas station where *I* held the door for some other, non-pregnant lady who didn't even say thank you, and she rushed in front of me and hurried to the single-occupant bathroom before I could make it there with my waddle! We both stood there in line waiting for someone else to come out, so she could tell that was where I was headed. Beeyatch, pregnant ladies need to pee badder than you do! I scowled at her when she left.

I also had multiple experiences at 7-8 months, rushing as fast as I could manage through airports trying to make connections after my plane came in late, OBVIOUSLY struggling (a couple of times I even started to cry), and nobody helped me--I got passed from both directions by more than one non-busy-looking airport beepy truck-cart thing, and nuthin.' I was too out of breath and agitated to yell after them to come back for me, and nobody else came to my rescue, either.

Boo, world, boo! Whaaaaaa frickin' whaaaa!

Screw you, reviewing for random journal.

Ya know, I should have known better than to get involved with reviewing for a random open access journal that I'd never heard of before and that does not have a known reputation, but I thought I would try to do my duty and help promote this, since fundamentally I like open access and think it is a good idea. Also, I recognize my responsibility to participate in peer review and actually enjoy doing it most of the time.

But the one I just worked on apparently also does fairly open-access reviewer recruitment, as well.

If you're going to ask me to review a very, very bad and badly written manuscript for your journal--telling me it must be completed within a two week time frame, and treating the communication as officially as other journals do with requests to review--and if I spend an entire evening working on this pile of crap, sifting through it and analyzing what the hell is going on so I can make a relevant critique of what the problems are with it, then you better understand that it is going to piss me off when I get an email from you telling me that:

you've received many more peer review comments than anticipated...

and so you are closing peer review within a few days. Meaning, I have to assume, that you spammed a bunch of reviewers and accepted all of their "accepts" to review and wasted everybody's time. If I knew a cast of thousands of reviewers were also laboring over this piece of junk, do you think I would have used hours of my precious time on it too??? This article was not a blog post, for me to take my time at commenting on if I felt like it and had a minute. You asked me to review it as I would for any other peer-reviewed publication.

How disrespectful is that?

Exams: harder for teachers than for students.

I am having so much trouble getting creative about exam questions, and I only have to do a few for my co-taught course here (and I am responsible for far less material than the course director)! I feel an obligation to come up with something interesting and challenging, but that is still within the capabilities of the best students in the class. I think stereochemistry (my main topic) might be one of the hardest chemistry topics for which to do this. For one, it is so easy to accidentally screw up your design of the question because there are so many perspectives on molecules that can lead you astray. For two, I used all my good ideas last year and for the previous exam this year, so coming up with something fresh is really wracking my brain. For three, my mental prowess has checked OUT as of about two weeks ago, and I am feeling like I have oatmeal in my head. Stereochemical creativity and late pregnancy do not go well together.

I don't want to, and absolutely refuse to, go with the 'search the internet and find something someone else has done.' Nor do I want to just slightly alter some question from before, without incorporating a substantially different challenge of some kind. So, that leaves me with no choice but to wrack my brain and meditate until I chance upon some great idea for these questions. I'm gonna have to make sure I develop this skill, because in a few years I'll be on my own for the whole course, rather than just a couple of chapters. Dang.

A sexist kind of cancer...

So I lol'd at myself today. I got an email announcing a call for applications to a certain cancer research foundation that said the following:

"This round of awards will focus on funding Treatment Science: studies of new ideas in man or laboratory support of a high impact clinical investigation." (emphasis mine)

and had my usual twinge of disappointment/irritation about using the term "man" for human-based research... every time I read or hear that it is like almost walking into a glass wall with a big cringe. But then I realized it's a PROSTATE cancer foundation, so yes, indeed, this is one place where it's wholly appropriate to use that term. I dunno if they realize that or not, but hey.


I want to blog about something so, soooo bad but I can't because of the inevitable gradual dissolution of my pseudonymity and the potential that the wrong people would read it...


If anyone wants to hear my possibly profanity-laden tirade, just spot me an email and I'll indulge you (as long as you are not a secret spy out to expose my frustration on this issue). GRRAAGGGH.

Family leave and grants

Is this normal?:

At my institution, NIH grants cannot be used to pay the salary of someone (whether PI, postdoc or grad student) on paid family leave (such as maternity leave) for more than two weeks of that leave. As far as I can tell, you are allowed to be off on maternity leave for up to three months of the project on which you are a PI without notifying NIH and giving back your money or otherwise changing around your budget, but the institution becomes responsible for covering that leave pay on general funds. This is happening for my grant, which normally covers a major portion of my salary and is cost-shared by my department. But while I'm away for maternity leave, the department has to foot 100% of my salary bill.

I can't tell if this is an NIH policy or what--Real support (particularly for young science moms) means dollars. It looks like despite the talking of big talk, they still leave the pressure of supporting research staff and PIs who have children on the PIs (in the cases of grad students and postdocs on leave) and institutions (in the case of PIs on leave).

But then there's this policy... and this one at NIAID, which provides supplements to PIs whose postdocs go on family leave so they can hire a technician for up to two years--which would address the transitioning of the project work (that I think it was drdrA who discussed before)... I am confused.