Wednesday, April 28, 2010

6 minutes (UPDATED)

Supposedly, frantic collaborator will be in my lab in 6 minutes.  We have a ton of data to talk about--let's see how this goes....

UPDATE: So, frantic collaborator just left.  Twas not so terribly bad.  But, I find it amusing when he focuses on a piece of data that I thought was only so-so in importance and blew by my "really cool thing" piece of data.  Ah well, I can't fault him for that.  

Sunday, April 25, 2010

TIme to get down and dirty...

There was an interesting post in the blog sphere a few weeks ago (which I can't seem to find at the moment) about when you know it's time to start writing up a manuscript.  If you have read any of my last blog post, you know that I have been frantically trying to finish data for not one, but two manuscripts which Big Boss Man wants to submit to somewhat impressive (at least in the broad definition of our field journal) back-to-back, which hopefully will be published back-to-back-to-back* with the manuscript from frantic collaborator since all three papers deal with the same enzyme.

Last week I finished** the data for manuscript #2 and have just a few more experiments for manuscript #3 which can easily be finished in the early part of next week.  I have been reading and reading and reading in the down time between experiments and have most of the background/intro already formulated in my brain.

So, how do I know it's time to sit down and write these damn papers?  Because they are all I have been thinking about.  On the bus, in the shower, laying in bed at night, even during conversations over lunch.  When it becomes obsessive and all I can think about, then it is time to purge my brain onto the paper.

One small problem, though, which is keeping me from sitting down with the laptop is that I need to come up with the models, derive the equations and do the data fitting.  Not that I mind, in fact this is one of the reasons why I choose this field.  There is something so elegant and extremely satisfying when your model and therefore the system can be described by simple mathematical equations.  Show me the numbers.  Even so, the task is somewhat daunting and sometimes my intuitive sense for what is going to work does not work.  While frustrating in the beginning and sometimes slow to get going, it is my favorite part of the whole thing.

While I am by no means one of the great writers of the century, I do enjoy writing manuscripts (even though I curse myself and the data and all while doing so.) It is my chance to put my spin on things.  I like hunting through the literature to see if there is any scrap of previously published data that may further support our claims, I love making sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.  Maybe I am a closet masochist.

So, today on this wonderful glorious, rainy cold Sunday, I will embark on the model-making and the equation deriving armed only with a legal pad, a pot of coffee, a pencil, my data and my worn copy of Segel's Rapid equilibrium system.  I hope to make it through relatively unscathed, but I know that tears, frustrations, and such are inevitable.  As long as I can get all this craziness out of my head and onto the paper, though, it is worth it.

*This was something that he (Big Boss Man) and others did in the early days--while frowned upon now, I think that he may have enough pull with the editor's to push this through this way.  It's not that the papers wouldn't stand up on their own, more that they tell three highly intertwined stories, but as one massive paper we are looking at around 30 pages in the journal....

**Finished is a highly relative term- finished in that I can tell the story without resorting to major, major hand-waving--although each experiment brings up several new questions, as some point I have to draw a line for these things-they are already going to be the manuscripts from hell to write--a ton of data with a ton of side-stories, etc.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Interesting choice for a first-round draft pick.

Although, I have to admit that (a) we sorely need an offensive line that will keep Aaron Rodgers off his ass all season and (b) Bulaga already has the Midwest, corn-feed look. God, he is big!

By the way, what is it with the gold/diamond encrusted watches?  Holy shit, I don't think I have ever seen that much bling on anyone. Maybe I should have tried to play football in high school and college.  Oh, wait...that's right...never mind.

Unfortunately I will be missing round 2 and 3 tonight.  Have tickets to go see "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" tonight.  Cannot wait!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An open letter...

An open letter to my frantic collaborator...

I did not realize that writing a, say two-line e-mail, giving a status update on the current project was that difficult.  I am not asking for an in-depth, detailed analysis of the latest super-cool new data, just a quick note so I know that (a) you are getting my e-mail(s) (b) my e-mail(s) has(have) reminded you that I still haven't gotten the new data and (c) you are still actually living and breathing and making some sort of progress.  Far be it from me, a lowly post-doc, to expect a response from you, all revered and venerated 2nd-year professor, and I grovel at your feet to be asking for you for such acknowledgment that you have received my unimportant e-mail.  I cry your pardon as I remind you that two years ago you were in my shoes, in fact you had trained me before ascending to the higher levels of the ivory tower from where you now look down on me as nothing more than a minor nuisance. 

Please remember that, in all truthfulness, one of the few reasons you currently hold an assistant professorship and I am a lowly post-doc is that you are four years older than me and started this whole game sooner.  While I appreciate any scrap of data, attention or praise you throw my way, please refrain from coloring all your statements with derogatory terms and statements directed at me and my boss, who I might add was kind enough to put you as a co-PI on his really big grant which supports the work on the project for which I am begging you send the data from.

If you can find the time in your incredibly busy schedule (what with all the students and exams-the whole 3 of them-you have to mark) and general professorship-like duties, could you just send me an e-mail saying the "data is on its way" or something along those lines so when Big Boss man asks me about it, I (and you) don't look like a bumbling idiot.

The more I hear, the less I am liking you.  After this grant is over, I don't think we will be collaborating again.  How such a silly thing can put such a damper on a former friendship.  But you, dear sir, put that huge divide between us.   

No love-

Rocking out in the lab...

I have been swamped with data and manuscript(s) writing.  So, today I leave you with a song or two-this has been on repeat for the past 20 min in lab.  I forgot how much I absolutely love this band.

Sorry about the commercial in the beginning...but well worth waiting for

And, to end....

I do believe that "Your voice is sweet as salt" is one of the best song lines ever....

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The black hole time suck that is my life...

Still alive, just busting ass...

The "Black-Hole Time Suck" (also known as PowerPoint) nearly killed me last week as I frantically put together slides for my boss's upcoming talk (which I have absolutely no qualms doing since it, in turn, gave me an "updated" talk ready to go in a few minutes notice).

The recent conversation with collaborator nearby made me realize that the two manuscripts I promised to have done by the end of the month (at least in rough draft form) are no way near being ready and there are still some major gaps in the story.  I think I know what is going on, but convincing god damn reviewer #3 may be an issue. Although, discussing things yesterday, it looks like he wants to add two new variants to the data set we already have (which means at least 3 weeks before we get any usable data from them and another week to analyze/incorporate them into the story-so I may be able to by myself an extra week or two for writing).

It never ceases to amaze me as to how busy I always seem to be in the Spring, when the weather in post-doc city is gorgeous and being cooped up in the lab all day long is sometimes unbearable.  It is like all the planets align and there are manuscripts to finish, datum to analyze and conferences to prepare for.  All at once.  Not in winter, not in summer. Just Spring.  And I am not even teaching--although my two undergrad minions are in the lab.  Which, by the way, have to be the most productive and helpful undergrads I have ever had.  They both worked on the same project, one starting things on one day and the other picking off where she left off the next day.  They greatly exceeded expectations and generated a lot more stuff that I am going to need to finish off paper number three.  I have never really "trusted" the undergrads (in general) enough to give them parts of my project that I was eventually going to use.  It is extremely hard for me to give up control like that, but it is something that I have to learn to do if I ever am going to be a PI and trust the data generated by my grad student minions. I have to tell you, having them do so well this semester has helped a lot with my control issues. I have offered both of them first dibs on the "open" spots to work with me next semester, and I know for sure one of them is taking me up on that offer. 

Research scientist is still a twat, and in the past two days has managed to piss me off, insult me and trash me in front of big boss man more times than I can count.  I watch the clock, waiting for 2:30 when she leaves.  There is a longer, ranty-blog post in there somewhere, I just don't have the time to write it right now.  But, let me just say that goading me into commenting about her spawn(s) latest predicaments does not give her the right to dismiss what I said with the catch-all "What do you know, you have no kids.  Although, I am sure you will change your mind on that..."

So, all-in-all still alive, just turning out some awesome data, smiling a lot and putting out a few fires here and there. Unfortunately, I just finished reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"--Oh my god, absolutely amazing book, and I hear the second in the series calling me from my nightstand even as I write this post. Is it summer yet?