Wednesday, December 31, 2008

101st Post!

I just noticed that this is my 101st post. How exciting!!! However, that is not why I am posting. I am posting to, as usual, regurgitate random thoughts to the Inter-Net.

Christmas Haul

I gots some really cool shiz for Christmas this year, including a Panasonic DMC-FZ28 camera. Seriously, this camera is THE BOMB. I know myself - I don't really need a DSLR. Beside, with a DSLR I'd just have to buy lenses, and more lenses, and more lenses. Instead, I went 80% of the way with this camera in terms of manual knobs and lens quality, very flexible but not overkill for me. I seriously love this camera.

Ipod Shuffle - I haven't used an iPod for several years now, not since my first and last iPod decided to hold charge for only 30 minutes before dying. But now I have a shuffle and I ahve been dancing around the house like a maniac. This has both good and bad side effects. The good side effect is I am actually getting some semblance of exercise. Seriously, I am dancing until I am out of breath because I am a dancing machine. The bad side effect is that I am realizing that my lack of running over the last several months has put my cardiovascular system and general musculature into a tizzy and I am now extremely out of shape. Seriously. Maybe I can get back into shape by dancing like a maniac for the next few months. I'm loving it.

Some North Face Clothes. As mentioned previously, I am a fan. So I am happy.


I am giving an invited talk soon and I am basically falling all over myself in nervousness to get knock their socks off, which I think I can do. Working on this talk has made me think about the little meta-aspects of a talk that many people don't think about. Not *you guys* of course, but I've seen many people give talks that totally break these rules.

Obviously, first and foremost you have to have DATA. That's what I've been stressing like crazy about lately - my lack of data. However, it has finally come through as I expected and I can move on to constructing a fucking badass talk. But assuming you have good data, you can still have a bad presentation. Here's how to avoid that.

Once you have your data, is it ok to just throw up some graphs and ask people to worship your numbers? NO. It's not.

The first thing to think about is what your motivations are for doing the research you're doing and present them convincingly. If you can't convince your audience that what you are trying to do is worthwhile, they will tune out of your talk from the get-go. Now, it can be hard to step back and think about why your work might be important to a general audience because you've been buried in it for a long time - obviously you think it's important. But if you knew nothing about what you're doing, would you immediately think it was cool? If so, then awesome. If not - you better make a kickass slide that convinces people to hang onto your every word.

Next is the storyline - you need a story arc. Starting first with your motivation, then a description of how you approached the problem, then some methodological slides explaining what you've done, and then your results. No one wants to just see graphs on the 3rd slide and hear readouts of percentages.

Finally your results - are they readable? Are your axes clearly labeled? Could a freshman in college at least figure out what you are plotting, even if they don't know what it means? Have you thought about the best way to convey what you want to convey? Should you have done this in line graph form, bar graph form, scatter graph form? What are your axes ranging from? What's better, higher numbers or lower numbers? Are they normalized to a particular value, and if so, what is it? Never assume your audience knows the audience magically knows the answers to these questions.

What are your font sizes? Are you absolutely sure you have nothing smaller than size 18 on your slides?

Are you confident? Have you practiced? Do you have page numbers on all your slides? Is your title page appropriately done (title of talk, your name, your institutation, date)?

In the end, what you absolutely have to know is what the most important points are and why they important. And this has to come through. And a good rule of thumb is this: Audiences really can't take in that much information at a time, so it's never a bad idea to tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, tell 'em what you're telling 'em, and then tell 'em what you just told 'em.

These are all little things that need to be done prior to giving a talk. They might not be as important as having beautiful data, but they are very very important once you have your data in place.

Now - wish me luck as I try to knock some serious socks off with my talk.

Movie Meme

I'm not a huge movie watcher but I saw this meme over at R.E.S.E.A.R.C.H.E.R.S from Dr. J and had to try it.

Rules are simple: Xs next to movies you've seen, and if you've seen more than 85, you apparently have no life.

****PhizzleDizzle addendum, I will annotate some with brief comments! Woot! ha.

( ) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease -- did not like this at all, is that a crime?
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
( ) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
(x) Fight Club
(x) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
( ) Blazing Saddles
( ) Universal Soldier
( ) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
( ) Joe Dirt
Total so far: 6

( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
( ) Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving -MAS
( ) Flubber (original only)
Total so far: 7

(x) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle -- awesome
( ) Practical Magic
( ) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 8

( ) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
(x) Ten Things I Hate About You -- my favorite teeny bop movie ever
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
( ) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans -- who doesn't love a GOOD sports movie???
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
(x) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 12

(x) Bad Boys
(x) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
(x) Lucky Number Sleven -- a good one that went under the radar
(x) Ocean's Eleven
(x) Ocean's Twelve
(x) Bourne Identity -- i *heart* this one
(x) Bourne Supremacy
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled (original only)
( ) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
( ) Ice Age
( ) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
Total so far: 19

(x) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
( ) Maid in Manhattan
(x) War of the Worlds -- great book, eh movie
(x) Rush Hour
(x) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 24

( ) Best Bet
(x) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days -- actually kind of a good RoCom
(x) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
(x) Sideways -- 4 stars!
( ) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(x) Ever After -- surprisingly excellent
(x) Wizard of Oz -- i *think* i've seen this but honestly I'm not sure.
(x) Forrest Gump
( ) Big Trouble in Little China
( ) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
(x) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 32

(x) X-Men -- I *heart* Patrick Stewart
(x) X2
(x) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
( ) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
(x) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid -- I memorized this ENTIRE movie as a child.
( ) Freaky Friday (original only)
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
(x) Cruel Intentions -- surprisingly mesmerizing
(x) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2
Total so far: 43

( ) Swimfan
( ) Miracle on 34th street
(x) Old School
(x) The Notebook -- didn't cry, liked it ok. I know, I lose my chick card with this one. Whatever.
( ) K-Pax
( ) Kippendorf's Tribe
(x) A Walk to Remember -- I have no idea why I watched this. Ech.
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
(x) The 40-year-old-virgin
Total so far: 47

(x) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring -- who doesn't love Lord of the Rings????
(x) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
( ) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
( ) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 51

( ) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
( ) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History
( ) Three
Total so Far: 51

( ) The Jacket
(x) Kung Fu Hustle -- I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!!!!
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
( ) Monsters Inc.
(x) Titanic
( ) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 53

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
( ) Hulk
( ) Dawn of the Dead
(x) Hook
(x) The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
( ) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
( ) Waterworld
Total so far: 55

( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
(x) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 56

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 62

(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
( ) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
(x) Team America: World Police -- this movie is freakin' awesome. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
( ) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal
Total so far: 66

( ) Battle Royale
( ) Battle Royale 2
( ) Brazil
( ) Contact
( ) Cube
( ) Dr. Strangelove
( ) Enlightenment Guaranteed
( ) Four Rooms
(x) Memento
( ) Pi
( ) Requiem for a Dream
(x) Pulp Fiction
( ) Reservoir Dogs
( ) Run Lola Run
( ) Russian Ark
( ) Serenity
(x) Sin City
(x) Snatch
( ) Spider
(x) The Sixth Sense -- I found this movie surprisingly funny. I enjoyed.
( ) The Village
( ) Waking Life
( ) Zatoichi
( ) Ikiru
( ) The Seven Samurai
( ) Brick
( ) Akira
Total so far: 71

ok, I guess I do watch kind of a lot of movies. Heh. Oh well.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In which I discuss how I am hot shit

I have been working a long time on a particular problem (duh, I am a late-year graduate student). You might recall that I recently had a paper deadline in which I worked desperately to the end but it didn't seem to work out. I was extremely disappointed.

Since then I have continued to work on this problem - basically I had a theory and gobs of analysis to support this theory, but when it came time to test the theory there were all sorts of problems. The results didn't line up. They in fact, flat out sucked. So I have been troubleshooting and troubleshooting, panicking and panicking, putting out fire after fire and finally, finally, I got some


I have finally got results that make sense considering the oodles of preparatory analysis I've done. I finally can be confident about what I've been spending my time doing. Lately I've been so stressed that in the back of my mind was always the thought that I would end up as some sad sack who worked many years on a PhD but just couldn't get 'er done. I thought, "if it came down to it, would I quit or would I continue knowing I had to start anew and take a few more years?" It was making me break out, both in zits and in fever blisters. As someone who as only ever had 3 fever blister breakouts in the last 8 years, I have had 3 since my paper. Mr. PhizzleDizzle is about going crazy because I won't kiss him when I have a fever blister and that's been 3 weeks in the last two months where I have refused to kiss him. I actually think it's kind of been bad for our relationship.

Fortunately, I think that's over now....finally I'm at a point where I can just finish up some stuff and write it up, maybe do some more experiments but the primary bulk of my idea base has finally been validated. I was so afraid that my analysis was just wrong and I had nothing. Thank FSM that's not true. And I am so so so happy. All results after this is GRAVY.

I feel like I have to reiterate what I said in this post. You really have to persist and just put your head down and suck it up. Truly, my sense of success at this moment has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that when I felt down (and I've felt down, oh, about 30 times in the last 2 months), I did not allow myself to wallow. And let me tell you, I thought about it.

I thought about giving up the thought of academia, because I couldn't take the roller coaster ride, plus I probably would suck at it anyway.

I thought about backing out of the invited talk I am giving soon.

I thought about quitting my degree, despite having put years into it.

I thought about all sorts of doomsday thoughts. I came thisclose to asking my advisor for advice on backing out of the invited talk, particularly given recent difficult news which made me feel like I could not spend the time on troubleshooting this holiday that I needed to.

One thing I do remember thinking though, after my 20th "down" episode was that "well, with the last 19 down episodes I've had 19 ups, so I just have to hold out, keep working, figure this shit out, and then I'll have my up again." It got easier, just knowing this. When I was in high school, I would occasionally have serious teen angst episodes where I felt like life was pointless and I was just going through the motions...not really anything crazy, like I still got out of bed and got good grades and stuff, but I was not getting much joy out of life, which I normally do. After a few of these episodes, all I had to tell myself when I was having one was that one day I would not feel bad anymore, and to look forward to it. And it was true - it always happened, I just had to make it to that day. Not only did my episodes get fewer and far between, they got shorter...until one day, I had my last teen angst episode, around the age of 16. I have enjoyed life pretty much every day ever since, more or less.

ESPECIALLY today :).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays to all!

I love Christmas. Even though I am a Flying Spaghetti Monster follower, I loooove Christmas for the giving. I love the lights, the music, buying presents....most of all buying presents. I often buy a few for myself too, but one thing I really enjoy is getting something for someone I love that I think they will really really like. It is so wonderful when said person opens their gift and looks genuinely happy/excited. I love it. LOVE it.

I have much to be thankful for this year, and I am having a fabu time with the family. We will soon be departing for the in-laws place where we will try to maintain a normal and happy holiday.

I hope everyone in the blogosphere has a lovely holiday season, whichever holiday you may celebrate. May your break be filled with love, laughter, fun, and of course, maybe also a few gifts you'll love ;).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Genius vs. Prodigy

Right now on TV I am watching Good Will Hunting. I absolutely love this movie.

When I first saw it in the theaters, I was hooked from the moment I saw mathematical equations shifting across the screen in the introductory montage. I just was entranced by this whole movie, and I wished that I could be as brilliant as Will Hunting, and the Matt Damon would somehow find me and want to marry me.

This brings me to an article I read a while ago, but has resonated with me for a long time. I've been wanting to write a post about it but have not had the time to really put the appropriate thought into it.

The article discusses how we as a society tend to equate genius with precocity, whereas he says in reality, there really are two kinds of genius, the kind that builds, builds, and builds into a late-career apex, and the other is the kind we are accustomed to, precocious genius. The analysis he performs is truly fascinating. I *highly* recommend that you read this article.

I think that we as academics tend to focus on precocity. After all, it's the easiest way to to determine near-term success, and since we need results sooner rather than later this works. However, I think that there are a lot of "non-traditional" people out there who are capable of great genius later. I like to think of myself as having this possibility, not necessarily of genius but of improvement over a lifetime. I've always been pretty good at stuff, but my recent development as a computer scientist has really made me think the best is to come. I just hope that whomever looks to hire me in the future can see and accept that.

Will Hunting is clearly a precocious genius, but I wonder what his later career would be like. Did he flameout? Did he continue to be brilliant? Was he happy? Did he contribute to the world?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Tribute

To North Face Nuptse Boots:

Yesterday I walked home in a serious snowstorm. I saw like, no one outside, no cars, no people on the streets. Very few at least. It was desolate. And cold. My face was really, really cold. Normally I think anyone who wears a balaclava is insane but I kinda wished I had one. And my jeans were soaked through when I got home and my quads were freezing. It was a cold walk. Into the snow. Uphill. Both ways ;).

Normally, my hands and feet are pretty cold, but in this snowstorm, these boots kept my feet so toasty warm I almost could not believe it. That's because there's DOWN inside the boots!!! Woohoo!! And they're cute too. Thank you, North Face!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Difficult Holiday Season

I have a crapton of work to do to prepare for a talk coming up soon. It sucks that it has to happen over the holidays.

And then...we find out that FIL's cancer has spread and there's nothing to do.

Talk about an eye-opener. I'm so sad. This will be a difficult holiday season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

ok, what the heck peeps?

recently when i was not so busy and eagerly checking google reader every day for posts from science chicks, there was nothing....

now, i am so busy i am not really checking google reader, but today i looked and i have 45 unread posts. 45!!!!!! seriously, i am not in sync with the blogosphere.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I am pathetic!!!!

seriously. I just spent nearly 2 hours making an awesome awesome dinner. it looks SO AMAZING.

but....then i dropped a plate and glass went EVERYWHERE and now it's too dangerous to eat any of the food. literally, there was glass all round the place. so now i can only smell it and look at it. i am SO PATHETIC.

ok, i am too lazy to take real pictures but here are some pics from my mac camera:

roasted green beans with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, goat cheese:

pesto baked chicken topped with mozzarella (worse picture and looks much less appetizing but whatever, IRL it looks and smells AWESOME!)


This is the third piece of glassware I have broken in probably the last month or so. When did I become such a klutz? I never even broke any plates or glasses as a little kid.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Best Snack Evar!!!

I haven't blogging much lately (busy busy!) but I thought my dear readers might enjoy this (or not):

EthidiumBromide - any chance this will be at your next Super Bowl Party? :):)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The "Other" PhizzleDizzle

Thanks to Gail, who informed me about Google Alerts, I've discovered who the "other" PhizzleDizzle is. He's a music guy. Check it out. It's pretty crazy how we picked the same nome de plume, but are in completely different areas of interest....I bet he's the one with phizzledizzle@gmail!!

Being in the Zone

Lately I have been in the Zone. I have been working a LOT. The house looks like shit. Since my deadline is over I have been trying to pick up the slack from all the work my dear husband did, but I am not quite succeeding in anything except a bit of cooking. The picking up/cleaning still needs a lot of work.

I am so in the Zone because I have so much to do in order to prepare for life after grad school - first, get everything done to get out of grad school, and next to make sure I have something I enjoy to do once I'm done.

The other day, I woke up, looked at Mr. PhizzleDizzle, and mumbled "page table allocate." No, it wasn't dream talk - it literally was the first thing I thought to say. That's sad.

So, in my post Tit for Tat, I asked about how things go when both parties in a marriage are stressed. Right now, we are approaching that point. Husband is very concerned with his research, and working long hours, as am I. We are both at crucial points where all our spare mental energy is spent thinking about our work. I realized this when we went out to dinner yesterday, and we kept talking about our own work. There'd be pauses, some chewing....and then out of left field we would say, "The thing about what I've been working on is....." or "Oh, maybe if I tried.....". The other would then say, "yeah, that sounds good." Then we'd continue chewing and pausing....only to have this same sequence happen again. We are both totally in the Zone and have not had a real conversation in a while, I think. I hope this doesn't last. We need better together time. Snuggling on the couch while watching the Daily Show (and me with my computer on my lap) does not count.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Favorite Imbibations

Ambivalent Academic posted a Kick-Ass Chili Recipe that calls for beer that is not "pee in a can", and in one of her comments said that "lousy beer is an abomination." This made me think about beers that I like.

So, I'll list my favorites and invite you to do the same in the comments:

In general, I like darker beers. I'm not a fan of tons of hops, I like rich, smooth flavor, not too bitter. My least favorite type of beer is the IPA. My most favorites include:


Smaller brews that I like:

Monkey Butt (seriously, it's good despite the name)
Long Trail Amber Ale
Blue Point Toasted Lager

What do you like?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I am getting OLD

Back in my heyday, I used to loooove to go dancing. In college, I would often go dancing and get all hot, sweaty, and gross, but dance the night away. I loved it. It's easy to do in college - just blow off a night of work, walk 15 minutes, and bam, you're in a dance venue.

Oh yeah, and ladies, don't forget that enjoying yourself is the best way to be hott. I remember there were a few times where I could not keep dudes from asking me to dance on days where I was convinced at the last minute to go out dancing and did not have time to get dolled up. One day, I even wore a baby-T. For a night out. And dudes be asking me to dance because I gots da moves and I was smiling and having a great time anyway.

Ok, back to the original subject. Since "growing up" and "getting married" I have not done this sort of "dance all night" event in a looooong time. So yesterday, it happened to be that I was in the car for a while and all these dance-a-licious songs came on the radio. I seriously wanted to go shake what my mama gave me. I was dancing in the car, I was dancing in the kitchen, I was itching to go dance dance dance!!

I was kind of heartened by the idea that last night we were supposed to go to a holiday party. I had the passing thought "maybe they'll have dance-a-licious music at this party." But I quickly scrapped that thought become the invitation said, "children welcome."

Party began at 7pm. It is at my best friend's house so I didn't want to be late. We hit traffic there and got there at 7:30. We walked into a FULL HOUSE. With oodles of children. I have NEVER been to a party not thrown by someone of my parents generation with children. EVER. People began leaving at 8:30 because they had to get the kiddies to bed. It was insane. Whaaa????

Seriously. When did this happen? Have my days of partying gone just because I am old and married? Husband is not into going out and dancing all night so much, so I guess I'll just have to gather up my girlfriends sometime for a trip to Miami Beach and hit the dance floor.

I was inspired by Dr. Isis' posting of a Britney performance (Womanizer was one of the dance-a-licious songs I heard), so I will post my latest favorite booty-shaker. I seriously heart this song. That beat!!! I am loving the beat.

I can't embed this video, so just check out the link.

Dance away, people!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What does it say about me if...

This is what Amazon thinks I want??

Santa, for the record, that is not what I want. :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Geeks and TV

I read an article in a recent WIE magazine about how to get more women into computer science/engineering. The lady said all this stuff about how law has done it (not at the partner level, but at the law school and associate level), and so has medicine (I think women are now 50+% of medical students). Why not in engineering?

After I read that article, I thought long and hard about the best way to get more women into engineering - I think it really boils down to a perception issue. You want to know why Law and Medicine did it? Two answers:

ER and Ally McBeal.

Ok, not really, but there really are a lot of shows on TV that totally glorify law and medicine, and on top of that the shows are really about hot sexy people having hot sexy sex with each other. Think of one show about hot sexy engineering having hot sexy sex in an engineering building. Mmmm....ZERO.

Honestly, I think this raises the mental accessibility of Law and Medicine to women, because obviously there are lot of women in these shows in order for the men to have someone to have hot sexy sex with. Thus, both genders are well represented in these disciplines, and moreover, they are always having hot sexy sex so everyone wants to be a Doctor or a Lawyer to have this life.

In the last few years there have been a few geeky shows on TV that at least SHOW geeky people are somewhat main characters instead of just ancillary caricatures. Of course, they are all men, but I suppose it's a start. Geek representation on TV is a whole other subject. For now, I'll just review these shows.

Big Bang Theory:

This show airs on CBS and is about a bunch of total geeks who are friends, and the shenanigans they get into because a beautiful blonde girl moves in across the hall. These are geeks at their most...stereotypical.

The Indian Guy - in the few episodes I've seen what I learned about him is that he cannot speak to women. He is like, physically unable to speak to a member of the female sex, he's too scared.

The Jewish Guy with the Bowl Cut - he is the one who thinks about sex all the time.

The Arrogant Sociopathic Guy - this guy is not REALLY sociopathic but he totally denigrates things like feelings and emotions, reveres only logic and rational thought, and considers himself God's gift to Science.

The Nice Guy - This is the guy who is just that lovable geek that could totally be a girl's best friend, all the while pining for Beautiful Girl while she pines for Wrong Guy, and in the end she may or may not realize that he's the only one that will treat her right and possible also bring home millions as the next Mark Zuckerberg.

All in all, I enjoy the show enough to watch when I channel surf and see it on, but I'm sure it doesn't reach a wide audience. A lot of the jokes are totally out there, but it's quasi-real geek representation. However, it's not the kind of show where people will be saying, "I decided to be an X because of Big Bang Theory" the ways I've heard lots of people say, "I decided to be a lawyer because I loved Law and Order" or "I wanted to get into forensics because I love CSI". No one wants to be these guys...unless you already are total geeks, because these guys are alpha geeks. But I like it, it makes me think fondly of all my geeky friends.


This show is soooo dumb but cute. I kinda like it, enough to actually TiVO it and watch it every now and then.

First of all, Zachary Levi (the dude who plays Chuck) is ADORABLE. I have a soft spot in my heart for geeks, I find extremely "classically" hot dudes kind of repulsive in a way. I have NEVER been a girl to swoon over some abs. I am a girl who swoons over humor and brains. So...Chuck is like, freakin' adorable. I love his hair, his Converse shoes, and his short sleeved button downs.

I watched a TiVO'ed episode yesterday, and he made all these geeky references which weren't over the top, but are the kinds of things that regular geeks (i.e. the ones who aren't stereotypical like the ones in Big Bang) do just in normal life.

1) He talked about how Pluto was no longer a planet and how he was kind of bummed out about it.

2) He talked about using the Force. He was trying to reach something he couldn't reach and just said in passing to himself, "C'mon Chuck, use the Force USE THE FORCE!" That's so something I would do. But I don't think everyone does that. And it's not *out there* but it's just regular geek.

3) He talked about MacGyver. The way he said it you could just tell he was one of those dorky boys as a kid who lived for MacGyver and watched every episode. It was cute.

So...none of the above are crazy geek markers the way the things the dudes in Big Bang do are totally geek markers - Chuck is a normal guy who happens to be a geek, and happens to be adorable. We need more geeks like this on TV. Now, he just needs to have a lot of hot sex with hot sexy she-geeks, kind of like his ex-girlfriend Jill, and we are all set. I loved the exchanges between Chuck and Jill a few episodes ago where they got all gaga over each other from totally geek references. That's how I get over Mr. PhizzleDizzle. When he knows something or figures something out that blows my mind, I want to just jump his bones.

In short, I vote for more hot sexy brainiac geek chicks on TV. We need a engineering Addison Shepard/whatever her maiden name is, an engineering Dr. Noah Wylie, an engineering Ally McBeal, and they need to get into a love triangle meanwhile saving the world over at the NSA with computers and technology.


Last night, I dreamed that I was washing my hair with beer. Like, I was pouring it out of a bottle, into my hair, lathering, and trying to rinse out the beer with....more beer.

That's all I remember, and I don't understand it, but damn, it was funny.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A fellow chick computer scientist!

Here is one of the lady computer scientists I found when I searched via google reader. Her latest post is a great one about why CS is such an interesting field. The scope is just so big! Check her out. I'm excited to have a new addition to my blogroll.

Google and Successful PhDs in Computer Science

There are few fields in this world, as far as I know, where the speed of a PhD can be extremely dependent upon how you spent your time as a 10-year-old.

I was thinking recently about why I have been pretty slow in getting my PhD. One of the reasons is that I did not grow up a hacker. This means that when I have an idea that I need to implement in order to test and experiment, the success of my experiment rests very highly on my ability to implement it quickly, effectively, and successfully, and I had to learn all those skills all on my own. In the biological sciences, bench skills are usually taught either in lab classes, or at the very least in the lab when you get trained by a prof or a postdoc. But few people enter the biomedical sciences having had a decade of experience with bench work and the various techniques PRIOR to entering even college, let alone graduate school.

In my world, no one uses the word "train" describe what they do to nascent graduate students; they either know shit about computers or they don't. If they don't, they usually drop out because it's so hard to compete - you might have good ideas but if you can't implement them, you lose. End of story. This may be a reason why there are so few girls in the area, I don't know many girls who hacked all their lives, even fellow computer scientist chicks. In graduate school for computer science, all focus is on idea generation and testing of said ideas, and very little about training.

Because of this, I will totally and unabashedly say that if there were no Google, I could not get a PhD in computer science. Hands down, absolutely, totally true. There are too many things out there that I just don't know about that I had to use Google to figure out. Some are basic and some are complex. I think I will thank Google in my thesis acknowledgments.


1) Compiler error X when building software Y.

Thanks to google and experience, I now understand and recognize most errors. However, sometimes I don't know how to fix them, but the plethora of mailing lists usually helps me figure out fixes or patches. I don't know how many blogs, mailing list archives, and whatnot I've trolled to figure out various things that have NOTHING to do with the idea I am trying, but everything to do with figuring out how to properly set up an environment to test the idea I am trying.

2) Finding helpful tools.

Without google, I would not have found various software tools that help me with my work. Writing your own tools is a bitch sometimes, and in the end, it's just great when someone else has written it already. But I wouldn't know about it without Google.

3) Little definitions.

Sometimes I just can't remember this little technical definition or that. Instead of having to go to the library, find the section that I think covers what I want to know, flipping through the index only to find that I'm wrong, and moving on to the next book until I find what I want to know, I can just ask google. For example, recently I needed to know what a Gini coefficient meant with respect to forming a decision tree. I had no idea - but Google did. Thanks Google!

In short, I think Google has revolutionized my ability to do what I want to do. It has (sort of) leveled the playing field such that it wasn't such a bitch to catch up to my fellow graduate students who have been living the dork-lifestyle since they were small children. It frustrated me to no end in the beginning of grad school about how I just didn't know stuff that I needed to know to get shit done. Not only did I have to learn about the field in order to properly think of new research directions, but I had to learn a crapton of other shit in order to be an effective researcher. It was a tremendous barrier to entry. Tremendous.

How can this be changed???? I don't know. I'll have to think about it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In which I wax poetic about matplotlib

Every scientist needs to make graphs. It's one of those necessary evils in order to effect information transfer. It's also kind of unsexy. What's sexy is the research, what's unsexy is the meticulous work that can be required to put it into graphical form.

It's like in college, when I was talking with a girl who was working on her senior thesis. She said, "I'm almost done, I just have to do the bibliography" and she had 3 hours before the deadline where she had to physically turn it in. I looked at her and said, "Oh you poor girl, get on that right now." Bibliographies are also necessary evils and always take longer than you think/hope.

So, fortunately, in the computing world there are lots of people working on lots of free projects and software to make people's lives easier. Out of the goodness of their hearts. It's lovely and wonderful. I myself work on such a project. I won't tell you what it is though - I'd lose my anonymity in a heartbeat that way. But anyway.

One of my favorite free projects is called matplotlib. It's a most excellent piece of graphing software, extremely useful for me, as someone who does a lot of work in Python, as well. Anyway, you know MATLAB? You'll probably be just fine with matplotlib too.

Check out this gallery of screenshots for all the things you can do with matplotlib. It's incredible. It's awesome. It's magnificent. I LOVE MATPLOTLIB. Almost as much as I love mercurial. Hubby HATES Excel and recently asked me how I made such pretty graphs - I told him, matplotlib!!! So I made a few graphs for him. Lickety-split, he has pretty graphs.

What matplotlib is ideal for:

  • If you already use Python to do your scripting, matplotlib is a MATLAB-ian interface within Python, so your transition to matplotlib will be very easy. Just download the egg file to get all your prereq packages and you're set to go.
  • People who need documentation. Matplotlib has some of the best documentation for a free software project I have ever seen. Active mailing list, lots of examples, documentation for every class/function/everything, and even more examples.
  • People who have to turn massive textual data into graphs. This is the best part about matplotlib, in my opinion. Python is my favorite workhorse language. It's very easy to pull out bits of data from massive amounts of textual data. The language is EASY, READABLE, and AWESOME. Since matplotlib is within Python, you just pull out your bits of textual data, and plop them into a graph of your choosing - bar graph, histogram, line plot, whatever. Woot!
  • People who hate Excel.
  • People who aren't afraid of trying new things and doing a little digging on how to get something to work. If you're totally unfamiliar with everything I'm talking about, you can still love matplotlib, you'd just have a learning curve issue. But once you get it, you'll love it. But only if you're willing to put in some time to get away from Excel.
  • People who are cheap. Matplotlib is free. FREE.
  • People who like to control things. You know how in Excel, you can't force it to do certain things? You just can't - if it's not built-in, you can't get it to do it. Not so with matplotlib - if you can code it, you can make it. And you can always code it.
Ok, I guess I'm done waxing poetic about this piece of software. But I think it's worth sharing. Because as I said, every scientist needs to make graphs sometimes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Veritable Cornucopia of Thoughts

I've been away for nearly a week now, both recovering from my paper and celebrating Thanksgiving. I have a lot of posts bottled up in my head, so I will just combine and randomly write.

On Ethics and Integrity in Academia

I've mentioned before that my advisor is a really really good guy. He believes in publishing quality work in quality venues, and that's all. He's very methodologically meticulous, and extremely well respected in this regard.

This necessarily means that his students don't publish that much, me included. Some because I didn't push myself enough (he's not pushy or demanding), but then also because he kind of nixes pieces of work as not good enough.

So now I find myself in a pretty shitty position when it comes to an academic job search, to the point that I don't even want to try. I talked to him about it recently; I told him that I respected his reputation and his good work, and I didn't want to stray from it, but also that I friggin' need some more pubs if I ever want to be a prof at a semi-reasonable place.

What to do?

Then there is a whole other, more insidious level of academic integrity. What I've been talking about is pretty forgivable, just submitting semi-frivolous work to low- and mid-level venues just to pad a pub list. But this other level is different. When I was working on my paper, there were numerous ways in which I could have semi-fudged what I was doing, but I draw the line there. Not explicitly making up numbers, but methodologically skewing results to look better. I know people do this all the time. It sucks, and it means reviewers have to be really on the lookout, but they aren't always. It's pretty easy, in my field, to do this skewing in non-obvious, and not even intentionally insidious ways. It could just be from carelessness. Anyway, with this paper I worked on, I could have, but I didn't. It might cost me a pub or two or ten over my life, but I learned well from my advisor and I don't want to be that kind of researcher. But I also don't want to be out of a job.

What to do?

Thanksgiving and giving thanks

I had a very nice Thanksgiving weekend with my in-laws, where there was food, laughter, love, and fun. It was lovely. I have much to be thankful for this season, and I think it's important we remember that, all of us, that we are very lucky to not be living in a society where things are so plentiful in the grand scheme of things.

Things I am grateful for:

  1. My health - it is easy to forget that just being able to go about your day normally is something to be grateful for.
  2. My husband - I've talked about how wonderful he is, and he is such a huge boon to the quality of my life. I *heart* Mr. PhizzleDizzle.
  3. My family - not only is my entire family awesome and functional, but they too, are healthy and happy. This also makes my life easy. I know enough people who are totally awesome themselves but are dragged down by f'ed up family dynamics or family health issues, and this is not the case for me. Thank goodness.
  4. My in-laws - the fact that they are not monsters and in fact, are nice people, is probably one reason why Mr. PhizzleDizzle is also so awesome, so woohoo for me.
  5. Our lack of debt - Thanks to our respective parentals, who shelled out big $$$ for college, we are both free and clear in terms of college debt. We owe nothing. To anyone. This is suuuuuch a weight off of us and allows us to easily live within our means, despite making very little money. The other thing that enables us to live within our means are our awesome parents who taught us how to do so. We don't have a lot of "stuff" but we have enough and are very happy.
  6. My looks - I sort of just added this on from reading JLK's post on hotness. But let's face it, society cares about beauty and I'm just happy I was born reasonably good looking. Add to that a healthy sense of self-confidence and I am able to navigate lots of this world pretty easily. I do all the right things, eat reasonably well, exercise (sort of - not lately), and all that, but also am blessed with a pretty nice rack, a pretty nice ass, a pretty nice figure, a pretty damned awesome metabolism, and a variety of pretty nice other features that just make my life easier. And I am thankful for that as well. One of the most annoying things in the world is a chick who complains about how ugly she is when she is in fact very aesthetically pleasing. I am not one of those chicks. I am grateful for what I've got.
  7. My friends - I have the least catty, most supportive, bestest friends in the world. I just wish they all lived near me. They're all the things girlfriends should be, and none of the things girlfriends shouldn't be. I love them.
In short, I have a rich, blessed life. And I'm grateful for that.

I had more to post about but I just finished making brownies and it's time to eat them. So it will have to be another time.

But I hope everyone had a marvelously happy Thanksgiving filled with love, family, and laughter.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's 7am and I am going to bed

The couch, rather...I don't feel like disturbing the husband or getting into pajamas.

And I'm still not sure if this is going to work out. Sigh.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tit for Tat

As discussed previously, Mr. PhizzleDizzle has been taking excellent care of a frazzled PhizzleDizzle lately.

At the moment, he is cooking Indian food (he marinated chicken yesterday) and making hummus. Comrade PhysioProf is not the only dude on the block who can cook! I am sitting on the couch working (blogging?), and thinking about tit-for-tat.

One of the reasons why I feel so blessed to have Mr. PhizzleDizzle is that an entire aspect of life, the search for a partner, has been taken care of. I am not sure how life would be right now if I were not only trying to finish a PhD but ALSO trying to meet someone that I enjoyed being with. Or trying to deal with someone I was with that I didn't like so much. Instead, that aspect of my psyche can be devoted to my work.

With him taking such good care of me lately, I wonder about whether I would do the same for him. I almost feel like the husband lately. I hardly do any dishes, I don't pick up after myself, today I changed my underwear for the first time in 3 days (laundry day is approaching and I need to make it to the finish first), and I have generally lapsed in personal hygiene. When he is working this hard, will I do the same for him? Is that the hallmark of a good relationship? Do men ever think this way about returning favors/TLC? Does Mr. PhizzleDizzle feel underappreciated? I have been telling him thank you and that I love him so much every few hours or so. I am worried eventually he will get tire of this and resent me.

Also, am I fundamentally selfish? I am not sure if the time came I would be so gracious as Mr. PhizzleDizzle. I think I would still expect him to do a few dishes, or put some of his clothes away. Does this make me a bad wife? I don't know.

How do you handle times when you are stressed and busy as hell? Does your spouse take care of you? Do you do the same when they are stressed? What happens when you are BOTH stressed at the same time?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Physical manifestations of stress

Today, I realized that I have given myself a fever blister. Normally, I only get them very rarely, if I have been in the sun too long without sunblock on my lips, or if I actually have a fever.

Well, not anymore. Today one just popped up to say hello, probably to be like, "yes, this is how your life could be worse."

I have let myself seriously go the last few weeks. I haven't exercised, put on much makeup, or given a general rat's ass about my appearance. It occurred to me today that when I have a real job, this will not be acceptable, as doing all the above when working on my couch at home is ok but probably not in a workplace.

Anyway. Abreva better work. The last thing I want is to show up for Thanksgiving with the in-laws with a honkin' blister on my lip.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I have just added an email contact to my profile.

Can you believe, phizzledizzle@gmail is TAKEN???? The nerve!!! ;) I almost want to email and just see who they are.

Instead, I had to settle for something else. Oh well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No vegetables and PhD Success Mantras

The only problem with Mr. PhizzleDizzle doing all the cooking is that I don't think I've had a real serving of any green vegetables for at least a week.

Tomatoes, potatoes, and onions, that's it. Pretty pathetic.

On another note, I was thinking about something today. My moods have swung from wildly high to wildly low recently based on my research day - good results, bad results, roadblocks to go around, etc. All of which have required me to just suck it up and keep going.

It made me think, that's really all a PhD is. Once you get past a basic level of curiosity and competence, it's really about persistence. Yesterday, I had a not so good day. It was such that, at the end of the night I was sitting on the couch and I said to husband, "I want to die." Then I quickly took that back, that is a horrible thing to say when I am so lucky and healthy. But I was internally shaking with stress and worry and my career going down the tubes.

PhD Success Mantra #1:

When you are stressed out - stay calm, hold it together, and keep working.

But there was something in the back of my head that said, "HOLD IT TOGETHER." And I did, and I kept coding, and this morning the thing I needed to support my experiments came together and worked. This would NOT have happened if I had given up last night (which I thought about doing) or crying (which I nearly did).

PhD Success Mantra #2:

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, that's the only way you'll get stuff done.

It happened to be that Mr. PhizzleDizzle was watching "The Unit" on TV, some show about Army special forces or something. I was sitting on the couch, working, and not really tuned in. Then suddenly, I heard a character say "Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just keep going. That's the only way we get things done in this world."

I know it may sound stupid, but I felt like that was a sign, and it came just in time - it totally bolstered my self control to just keep going. It was so funny, it was the first time I really had a "devil/angel" conversation with myself. I knew if I let myself go to pieces, it was all over, but that's what I so wanted to do. It's weird, but I am really proud of the way I told myself to "suck it up buttercup" and how spectacularly successful I was at doing so.

PhD Success Mantra #3:

What would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail?

I was speaking to a friend the other day, who said she came across this quote. I thought about it for a moment, and it REALLY resonated with me. Why did I feel like giving up yesterday? Because I felt like I could fail, so I might as well stop before I put in the work and waste my own time. I realized I totally would do a lot of things differently if I KNEW I wouldn't fail. And that's sad.

So last night, I told myself that if I assumed I could do what I needed to do, then it was only a matter of getting it done. So then, I did just that. Isn't that amazing? So much of success really is in attitude.

It just so happened that all these mantras came together and helped me last night in my dark moments of distress. They are all really variations of the same thing, but they are each helpful in their own way. And today I feel much better. So I felt like I should share.

The fun of deadlines

When it rains, it pours.

I am working MADLY on a deadline. Ack. I have been goign to bed at least 2:30am every day, some days even 4am. The other day, I was so wired and stressed I couldn't sleep until ~4. For me, that's insane because usually I'm asleep within 2 minutes.

I want to graduate soon and it's becoming rapidly apparent that I have got to keep this pace up for the next few months in order to do so and be satisfied with my work.

I just found out I need to give a talk in a few months and I need to get stuff done for that too. I suppose this is making up for some of the time that I putzed around during early grad school.

At the same time, it feels good to be productive. I haven't always had this feeling. If only it would be...less FRENETIC.

Fortunately, my hubby takes very good care of me. Each evening, as I sit on the couch frowning at my computer and typing furiously, he brings me food and asks me, "Do you need anything honey?" every 45 minutes or so. He's sooooo lovely. And I'm so "on" I realize later that I don't necessarily even acknowledge him enough. Last night he asked if I wanted the last cookie out of a batch he baked, and I didn't even look up and just shook my head. Remind me to kiss him when I see him later at home. He is making this crazy time so much easier for me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Women and Computer Science

Yesterday, with sadness, I read this article in the New York Times which wondered, where are all the women in computer science?

I must say, it made me both sad and confused. Apparently, while women have largely achieved parity (in terms of undergraduate degrees) when you take science and engineering as a whole, women in computer science has been dropping steadily. In fact, latest estimates for the most recent classes of undergraduates place women as numbering less than 10%. For undergrad. If you continue to lose with each higher degree, which is the norm for women, you wonder if I am one of the last of my kind. I mean, shit.

10....measly....percent. Why is this? I cannot figure it out, exactly, because figuring it out would require that I determine what it is that makes me extremely unusual. I know I'm unusual, I'm ok with that, but I have a hard time thinking that I am *extremely* unusual because I view the world as a big bell curve for everything and just by principle I am unlikely to lie at the extreme end of any of them. But apparently I do.

It has been wonderful for me to find this community of lady science bloggers online, but at the same time I feel like I don't totally belong in this group, because I have never worked with proteins, used a pipette, or worked with anything remotely alive or cellular in my work. All the hot, sexy science discussions are outside of the reaches of my comprehension. I can take a big picture idea, but that's IT.

In somewhat loneliness the other day, I actually went into google reader, which has a nice search function to find blogs that interest you, and typed in "female computer science."

Guess how many bona fide blogs came up? TWO. I subscribed to them both.

I have divulged extremely little information on this blog (I think) regarding what I do specifically, because I fear that just that little information could make it pretty easy to pick me out. How sad is that? I know people in biomedical or medical research, and the labs are FILLED with women. I know that doesn't make it easy, it's still a patriarchal sausagefest at the top, but like...I went through all of graduate school being the only girl in journal club. The first time I went, I was late, and I felt soooooo self conscious when I walked into the room with 30 men, late. I wanted to crawl under a table and die. I just felt so out of place. Also, I go to conferences, and when there are 20 women there out of 300, people say, "wow, there are a lot of women here." Can you believe that?

One of my advisors (not the one I discussed the other day - I am co-advised), has been a full professor for many years, we're talking he achieved full professorship sometime when I was in elementary school. He's no spring chicken. And he has NEVER graduated a female PhD student. Ever. I will be the first. Can you imagine?

I desperately, desperately want to know why this is.

I have a few theories but that will be another post. Back to work.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thinking about Advisors

Ambivalent Academic's post from a while back led me to think about my advisor, and what our long relationship has been like, and what our individual personalities and situations have brought to the table. It really is a relationship fraught with twists and turns because of, partly, how long the relationship lasts, and the implied mentor/apprentice aspect that goes along with it.

My advisor is a really nice man. He just is. There's really nothing asshole-y about him, which is part of why I am really lucky to have him. He is known for his integrity and his...well, just his goodness. But this doesn't meant sometimes he doesn't pull a dick move - but this is because of his life or personality quirk, not from malice. Since you are with your advisor for years, even the nicest people can have a difficult relationship, I think, when you work so tightly together.

So, I feel like some of the difficulties I have sometimes with my advisor stem from my own lack of confidence. I'm kind of bipolar when it comes to confidence -- at a fundamental level, I think I am a rockstar, but at the same time I also think I really suck. I cannot explain how I can hold these two beliefs at the exact same time, but I often do. So, this whole thing about impostor syndrome - I've felt it. Many times. Only to then chide myself and say, "Whatever, you're here because you're a rockstar, not because you're an impostor." And then the feeling will go away. For a while.

Basically, the difficulties I have all fall under the same theme -- I feel like my advisor doesn't care about what I am doing because it is uninteresting and it sucks. The reasons I feel this way, though, are often wildly concocted in my head.

Example: Advisor doesn't want to read my prelim paper before I turn it in. The reason? Probably because I handed him my final version a few hours before I had to turn it in (I was young and naive, this was very early in grad school.) His response, "Well, if I read it, is it going to make a difference?" Valid point. However, I was so young and stressed and from my perspective, if he read it and had contributions, I would have a few hours to try to fix them. So when he basically was like, "whatever." I was crushed. In hindsight, I obviously should have given him a copy earlier (though I had provided rough drafts previously, this was my first totally complete submission). Conclusion - was it wrong of me to hope that my advisor cared enough about my education to read the paper that would decide whether I got to stay in grad school? No. Was it wrong of him to blow me off when I gave it to him hours before the deadline, because he has stuff to do too? No.

Example: My advisor often tells me he doesn't have time to help me with a paper draft, or doesn't remember the exact details of something I'm doing, or this, or that, or this or that. Things which I have come to expect from a person who has a job, a life, a family, and other students to manage. But in the beginning, I always convinced myself that he didn't care about my work. My evidence? Well, since I've been funded by external foundations for most of my career, I have been largely free for my advisor. So, his financial investment in my work has been low. I convinced myself that had I been a non-fellowship student and he would have had to pay for me, he would have dumped me long ago. That it was in his best interests to get whatever marginal crap I could come up with because he didn't have to pay for it.

Think about that for a minute, how fucked up is it that I convinced myself that I sucked BECAUSE I won awards? That's talent, ladies and gents.

So, when he told me (yet again), for a paper that I needed some help with, that he didn't have time to help me, I was so mad I nearly cried. By this point in my career, I was more used to it, but this time it just crushed me, I can't really explain why. I complained bitterly to my friend, who said, "Maybe it's because he thinks you can do a good job on your own, so he doesn't feel like he has to help you in order for you to be successful."

I stopped ranting to consider this possibility, and that's when the "you're a rockstar" side of my personality emerged, and thought this might be true. But still. All the papers I have ever submitted have been written 98% by me. And I was sick and tired of it. I'm not saying an advisor needs to do a lot of writing (though they probably should for a young graduate student). I'm saying that it would be great if they could even READ it and say "re-org this, re-work taht, this isn't clear, change of direction here." I got NONE of that, and it drove me crazy and drove me to believe that he really just didn't care.

Recently, my advisor told me that he did, in fact, plan to set aside some time to help me with this paper I am working on. I was delighted. He then told me that he feels bad he wasn't able to help me other times, but that it's because he feels like I can put something together that is good enough by myself. So my friend was right. It was soooo validating, and reminded me again that these close relationships can be so fraught because of our own weirdnesses, let alone having a psycho advisor.

Also recently, my advisor told me that he was excited about my thesis. This made me float on air, for a long long time. He never realized that with my insecurities (based on truths - as mentioned in a previous post I came into graduate school with a much worse background than my schoolmates) that I would need occasional praise to live on. Fortunately for both of us, I am a tough little bitch and stuck through everything, in time to realize that he doesn't think I suck, he doesn't hate my work, and he does, in fact, perhaps even care about me.

So....I'm not sure what really the point of this post is. Maybe it's just a reiteration of how important it is to choose your advisor wisely. I'm a reasonable and nice person, and so is my advisor, and yet we can have weirdnesses too, just because of the nature of the advisor/student relationship. You HAVE to pick someone you can work with for years, so even if FamousProfessor is willing to take you, if he's fucking crazy, then don't do it. Unless you want to cry all the time.

The other possible point is to always believe you are a rockstar. But only if you really are. Like I am. ;)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tagged again? :)

This almost feels like elementary school, where we ran around the playground tagging each other endlessly. It was so much fun :). Ah, those were the days. Anyway, I guess Eugenie and Dr. A (edit: and newcomer JLK as well! Welcome!) are rarin' to know some stuff. And since I am waiting for experiments, I will take this opportunity to answer some shiz about myself!

5 things I was doing 10 years ago:
1. Getting my ass handed to me on a platter by my first midterms at ILU. I don't know what I was thinking with that schedule (I was naive) - note to Eugenie, it will be ok :)
2. About to spend my first Thanksgiving away from home. :(
3. Trying to make friends, talking to everyone I met, then tripping in the dining hall and spilling orange juice all over my white sweater.
4. Avoiding the freshman 15 - and not really succeeding
5. Getting to know Mr. PhizzleDizzle, whom I thought was one of the dorkiest dudes I'd ever met.

5 things on my to do list today:

1. Work on my paper.
2. Phone meeting with advisor.
3. Work on my paper.
4. Drink water so I don't pee orange tomorrow, and have some real food.
5. Work on my paper, and do not freak out.

5 snacks I love:
1. Cheddar and Sour Cream potato chips
2. French Fries (even better, topped with melted cheese)
3. Crudites (particularly, broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms. and celery. ok, mostly any of them, but not so much carrots, which I will eat but do not LOVE).
4. Tomatoes from my MIL's garden.
5. Cheese.

5 things I would do if I were a millionaire:

1. Buy a house.
2. Go on a long trip around the world.
3. Endow a regular social hour for graduate students at my institution after I graduate. Imagine that, every week/month, the "PhizzleDizzle Social Hour to relieve you of Graduate Stresses". In fact, I might do that anyway, even if I am not a millionaire.
4. Not live much larger than I do now.
5. Become more financially supportive of a favorite charity.

5 places I've lived:
1. California
2. Connecticut
3. Indiana
4. Michigan
5. New Jersey

5 jobs I've had:
1. Receptionist at a small computer software firm
2. Dining hall at ILU
3. Intern at various tech companies
4. umm....TA?
5. Ooh, I almost forgot - I worked in a library at ILU. That was boring. I love libraries, but not this one.

5 people I'll tag:
I am going to break this rule. I am honestly just too tired to make the links. And I have go to back to work. Sigh. But anyone who wants, go ahead and to the meme and say I tagged you :).

See you all on the flip side!

In which PhizzleDizzle is so busy...

she is neglecting her health.

This morning, I peed burnt orange colored pee. Mr. PhizzleDizzle was brushing his teeth, and told me to drink more water. Usually, I drink lots and lots of water every day, but lately I am too engrossed in this work I have for a very big paper deadline to get up to get water.

Additionally, it is noon and I have not eaten anything yet today. And I've only had half a glass of water. Because I woke up and came straight to my trusty computer to check on my work and I have been sitting on the couch ever since.

Now that it is noon, the stomach is beginning to rumble and complain. Methinks I ought to maybe get up, drink some water, and add some nutrition to my body in order to ensure strength to continue!

Carry on.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Post-Docing in Computer Science

Ambivalent Academic asked about what Post-docing in my field is like, how people are viewed if they do or do not do a post-doc (talk about an awkward sentence!). This is my personal theory.

In my area (computer science) there is a very very strong industrial presence, obviously. All of Silicon Valley, and the tech sector are all ready and willing to suck talent out of the PhD pool. And pay them well. Regardless of whether they have done a post-doc or not. In fact, Bill Gates doesn't even have a Bachelor's, as everyone well knows, and the founders of Google left their PhD programs to start the company. And obviously, no one cares. So basically, if they want you, these companies will hire you regardless of whether you have certain letters after your names.

For this reason, I believe post-docs are really not required or done in my field because it's hard for people to resist the paycheck that could come from industry. If a company is willing to offer you over $100K out of your PhD, then why in the world would you go get a post-doc? Thus, academic departments would be hard pressed to require people to get post-docs in order to hire them, otherwise everyone would just go to industry. It's bad enough that academics get paid much less than their industrial counterparts, if you forced them to take 2-3 more years of getting paid very little, you'd have a mutiny and suddenly there would be no computer science professors.

At the same time, there is a lot less "methodological" training required in computer science. I don't know if that's why post-docs are important for other fields, I'm not really sure why you need to have them except maybe to get exposure to another lab/sub-field? I don't know, since I don't know anyone who has done one. But I imagine that part of the reason is to get broader methodological training. Which isn't required in computer science. Basically, you can code or you can't code. There are no "techniques" or "equipment" that you couldn't figure out quickly anyway. Yes, there might be some slightly different software tools, or maybe these machines are Suns and these are Opterons and those are Xeons, but really, it doesn't matter. So to spend 2 more years training would be pretty pointless.

So yes, some people do post-docs but for entirely person reasons - in my field no one would bat an eyelash if you didn't do one and became a professor. In fact, they might bat an eyelash and ask "why?" if you did do one.

Thus, since I thinking about the possibility of one, for personal reasons, I have to go through "connection" channels rather than advertisements, because no one advertises. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Today, I got to my office and it was 90+ degrees inside. It was so hot that my computer fan was blowing hard, even though the computer itself wasn't doing any work. That's really freakin' hot.

I don't know how this office can be so decrepit and screwed up, but it is. I opened the window, opened left the door open for crossbreeze, and turned off the temperature unit, which despite the thermostat saying 70, was blowing lots of hot air.

Now it's better. Wtf.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I will reprise my comment @Renee on Dr. Isis's blog here. Thanks to ScientistMother who alerted me to this travesty. (Synopsis - some people say it is bad to project femininity when you are a scientist because this causes people to take you less seriously. Renee comes in to say she doesn't like black people because she doesn't like hip hop, and she doesn't like women because she doesn't like shopping.) To that I say:

@Renee - how's this? I don't like people who dislike people for reasons that make no sense.

What you seem to not understand is that most people aren't caricatures and members of only one "culture" as you call it. I find it hard to imagine that you can do good science when something as complex as human beings are broken down into simple one-faceted elements.

Hip Hop Loving, Classical Music Loving, Dancing Loving, *nix Loving, Mac Loving, Nerdy Boy Loving, Ender Loving, Python (the language) Loving, Shoe Loving, Food Loving, Project Runway Loving, Slashdot Loving, Yellow-Assed PhizzleDizzle


On Mentoring

There is a fellow student at my university who is largely in the minority, like me. We have been buddies - we are fellow "tokens" in the department, and we relate to each other well in that respect. But that feeling of tokenism has stopped neither of us from pursuing our ultimate goals because we share a sense of dogged stubbornness.

I am more senior than this student, and I have at times taken him slightly under my wing. He is willing to ask me questions that I think he is not willing to ask others. He is definitely closer to me (research-wise) than anyone else in the department.

The issue is this - as a person who required a bit of "work" when I began graduate school, I can appreciate not writing someone off if they do not come in with ninja coding skillz and the ability to use the Force on all *nix machines to make them do their bidding. Because I couldn't either. However, my approach was to work my ass off trying to catch up to my nerdy boy colleagues who had been playing with computers since they were 3. I kid you not - THREE. And I am proud to say that I largely have caught up, and said colleague has openly told me he respects that I have taken myself from nothing to an ass-kicking name-taker.

While I worked very hard, I also had a great mentor who is the least gender-judgemental guy I have ever met in my field. He is also one of the most self-confident people** I have ever met (for good reason - he's good at everything.) I very, very, very much appreciate the willingness he had to help me, and I owe him a lot. I think, however, that we had a symbiotic relationship. He was willing to help me because I was willing to do my own legwork - I did not gratuitously ask him questions where the most logical answer is RTFM.

So, the way to overcome bad background is the ability to think, work hard, and a good mentor for when you need it.

Getting back to my fellow token, I have sometimes wondered how much work I would want to put into the kid. Because as far as I can tell, he doesn't seem to have progressed very far, even after several years, and it seems to stem from slightly illogical/non-rigorous thought processes. While I am sure I was no picnic, sometimes this guy asks me questions which I find extremely obvious, silly, or just plain pointless. I waver from wanting to help bring him out of his strange thought processes to thinking that it's useless and that I need to finish my own PhD anyway and that I don't have time to help someone who needs that much help.

I am not sure whether I am a bad person or just a practical one, or a combination of both.

My sort of fantasy life involves being a professor somewhere and finding diamonds in the rough on a yearly basis, all non-conventional geniuses, in order to obliterate stupid-ass norms in the field. What this means, however, is that I'll need to find the right students and the right balance between how much they are capable of and how much I can help bring that out. I am not sure I know how to do this.

In fact, I'm not sure how you really teach students anyway. I do NOT want to be a prof (if I ever get there) that selects students solely on their ability to widen my research empire/fame. However, I don't want to constantly pour money down toilets on people who are not going to pan out.

So, to Professors out there:

1) How do you select students?

2) How would you deal with this lad?

3) How do you decide if/when you need to fire someone (obviously I have no power to fire this guy, I'm not saying I do, I am just wondering, for future reference).

4) How do you determine if the work required:academic yield ratio for a non-conventional student who is not ready to hit the ground running is worth it?


**I have discovered that very self-confident and capable people are the least likely to be judgemental and put someone down. Because they are so good they don't need to artificially bring someone down in order to push themselves up. Thus, I am much more likely to respect someone's intelligence if they are blithe about what they know with no intellectual affectations.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Love and Marriage, abbreviated

I know someone who recently got engaged after an extremely short courtship. We're talking blink of an eye.

Now, I know that everyone has an aunt, or a grandma, or someone like that who says, "Well, I met my Joe when he was on leave, and we just knew - we were married 6 days later and here we are, still in love after 30 years" or whatever. But those success stories are necessarily a long time ago, because, well, you need like 30 years to be able to deem it a success.

Anyway, just because everyone knows someone with that kind of story doesn't meant that that's a good idea. This person I know is engaged after 3.5 weeks, and seriously planning the wedding already. I mean really, I'm a bit shocked. Hopeful for the person because I'd like them to be happy, but still a little shocked.

How long did you date your spouse before getting married? What do you think is a minimum? Do you ever think it makes sense to get engaged after a month or so? Discuss.


Lately, I just have not felt like posting.

My friend who is trying to defend in December is on the (industrial) interview circuit and having little success due to hiring freezes. It doesn't help my mood any that he's AWESOME and really good at what we do.

My advisor has reached out to a friend at another institution to see if there is any room for me there as a postdoc. Have not heard back yet. That's how postdocs work - no one does them, so it's not an advertise/hire type thing. It's generally done the way I just described. We'll see.

I'm working my ass off on a paper that I really really really need to get in. This could be the big paper that I would need to make me a slightly more credible academia candidate in the future.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Morgan Freeman and David Palmer

I'm not white. I am also not black. As a non-black person, I never expected to feel the overwhelming emotion that I felt Barack Obama was elected president that was rooted in our...shared-non-whiteness. It's unbelievable. It gives me hope for my children, who will grow up in this nation being, also, not white.

I was trying to convey to Mr.PhizzleDizzle last night how historic this is in my mind, as a citizen of this nation who is not white. I had tears welling up in my eyes, and I explained that, unlike him, our children would not be white and this could mean so much to their sense of possibilities.

The funny thing is, he said it really hit home for him when I said, "You know when you watch those movies where Morgan Freeman is president, and you think, 'oh that's nice....this must be *the future*, where we've achieved some sort of utopia only conceivable in movies - we no longer have to think like that." And then we simultaneously brought up the show 24, where David Palmer, a black man, is president. And how, when you watch the show, you're like, "oh what an interesting premise, one that's totally not rooted in the realm of real possibility."

Well....those days are over. It will no longer be a Hollywood pipe dream to have a black man as the POTUS. It's reality. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I've been able to witness this in my lifetime - in my youth, at that.

Ok, I think I'm done waxing poetic about Barack Obama, I'm beginning to feel like a broken record. But I'm just so damned excited.

This morning...

I woke up, rolled over, and my first thought was "Obama is the next president."

Already the day is looking good!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

PhizzleDizzle wept.

At 11pm tonight, I sat on my couch and wept.

With joy.


Dude, these are awesome.

As a Technical Person...

I am not usually inclined to actually get involved in technology policy. I just want to do my experiments. Technology Policy sounds like a misnomer to most techno-geeks because, honestly, we just want to play with our toys.

But in the last several years, I have noted that the highest levels of government are FUCKING CLUELESS about some basic stuff and made some horrifically bad decisions, like using Diebold machines or employing RFID in our passports. I called my bank recently and told them to give me another card without RFID in them, because I'm a computer scientist and there is no way I'm using that card, and they capitulated. I dont' even want my credit card information broadcasted on RFID, you think I want that shit broadcasting off my passport? Yeah right.

If I were a technology advisor to the government, I would have laughed in their faces and told them to try again. Seriously, even as a 23 year old baby PhizzleDizzle wannabe I knew these ideas were stupid.

So, I saw this article recently about Obama's likelihood of creating a CTO-like position in the cabinet to advise technology issues. I think this is a great idea. We are becoming ever more dependent on technology in our lives, and if Bush can create a Homeland Security department, surely we can have a Technology department to make sure stupid shit isn't done.

I personally think Ed Felten would be awesome. Ed Felten is a huge rockstar. He was a government expert witness for the Microsoft Anti-Trust trials. He and his graduate students have proved time and time again that Diebold machines can be hacked in 5 minutes or less. He is basically, a techno-god. So, he would have my vote.

Anyway, I know it's a little late to be waxing about reasons to vote for Obama, but I think this is one of them.


Don't forget!! Exercise your rights as a citizen!!! :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

When Stressed: Bake, Dance, and Call Me In the Morning

Not long ago, I was feeling increasingly agitated from the stress of the impending job search, to the point that I had to blog about it.

So, I left my computer, I went to the kitchen, and I made another batch of pumpkin spice muffins, with the radio blasting and me dancing. Since the oven had to be preheated to a rather warm degree and because Mr. PhizzleDizzle had just done some cooking, the kitchen was rather hot. So, what did I do? I took off my shirt baby!

Let me tell you how liberating and relaxing it was to bake, listen to the soulful stylings of DMX, dance, and generally gallivant around my kitchen without a shirt on. I tell you, I feel 100% better. I highly recommend it. I feel like this could have been a movie montage starring Kirsten Dunst. Or Natalie Portman. But minus the DMX. They probably would be listening to Ani Difranco or something.

For serious. Try it. Now I'm going to have a glass of wine, bitches!! Ain't nothing going to hold me down now! Haha!

Job Search Stress

I have been so stressed about what to do with my life after I graduate into this crapass economy that I have been unable to fall asleep quickly for the past few nights.

This is pretty epic. Usually I am asleep in less than 5 minutes after I get into bed. Possibly even less than 3. I think last night it took me 30 minutes to fall asleep. I know this is not a lot for many people, but for me, that is A LOT - an entire order of magnitude. I had to forcibly tell myself to stop thinking, relax, and just go to sleep.

I am starting to compile a list of places to apply to for academic jobs. I revamped my CV today based on the fabulous guidance of drdrA, which helped me realize that mine was a disaster. I am also starting to think about alternatives, like postdocs (uncommon in my field), and industrial jobs that will take me away from my dear Mr. PhizzleDizzle. I cannot have gone to grad school for years and end up with no job. It's just not possible.

But I don't know. I am not a rock star. I've had some pretty extenuating circumstances in my graduate career that have led to a not particularly impressive publication record, which concerns me greatly. I have been looking forward to doing a temporary industrial lab/postdoc job for a while to get more experience and publications and shore up my CV for an academic job search in a few years, but if I am forced to do one now, I am just not ready, really. CRAPTASTIC.

What to do, what to do?????

Catalog Choice

Today I would like to talk about a website discovery I have enjoyed and actually find very useful. Because of my generous and magnanimous nature, I will share, aren't I kind?? :):)

Do you ever start getting catalogs, for some unknown reason, and then they just won't stop? And you don't know how to make them stop? And if offends your sensibilities that you might have to pick up the phone and call someone to make them stop sending you something you never even wanted? And you're not even sure who to call because they don't list that information on the catalog? And it drives you CRAZY that all this paper is being WASTED for something you don't even want?????

Well, Catalog Choice is a site that aggregates lots and lots of catalogs together and provides a one-stop-shop for opting out of receiving paper wasters. Sign up for an account and then you can just pick and choose who to opt out of, and they will handle the rest.

Through this site, I was able to stop getting catalogs from:
  • Dell
  • L.L. Bean
  • Sierra Trading Post
  • Crate and Barrel
It's a beautiful thing.

You're welcome :).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Lengths People Will Go To To Spread Lies...

astounds me.

Check this out: some crazy lady who loves John Bolton claims that Barack Obama is, in fact, an illegitimate love child of Malcolm X. Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, what a scandal!! Riiiiiight.

Here's what Gawker and some other dude have to say about it.

Seriously, people. Stop with the ridiculousness. It's not going to work. And if it does, I'll be seriously fucking-ass disappointed.

At the same time, it's like all these claims that he's a Muslim or an Arab. Intended to scare "certain people", but to the rest of the population it's like, WHO CARES. What's so wrong with being Arab, Muslim, or even the son of Malcolm X?

I had a whole post about the job search in my head, but this is what inspired me to put "pen to paper."

Cats vs. Dogs

I like reading the science chick blogs. They're fun and interesting and it's rapidly become a part of my day that I look forward to, perusing the chick science blogs.

One thing that I have noticed is the propensity of the bloggers to be cat people, to the point that they blog about their cats quite a bit. FSP and Dr.A come to mind, and I know I've come across others.

I myself am a dog person. I am going for a totally super scientific poll on the right, check it out. I would like to find out if there is truly a correlation between female science blogger and cat lover, and if so, think about why from there, and then, think about why I am not a cat person, besides being a bit allergic. Even if I weren't allergic, I would totally like dogs better.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I was over at Ambivalent Academic's blog post, who was inspired by Dr. Isis's blog post, and has now inspired this post. See, because of the cornucopia of lady-parts discussions in the blogosphere today, I realized that today, I have used the following words:
  • cooter
  • vajayjay
  • hooha
  • twigs and berries
Why do I do that? I'm not a prude like Elliot from that show Scrubs, who can't say anything that she wouldn't say in front of her mother. My personal favorite euphemism of hers is "bajingo," her word for exactly what you might expect. Somehow, it just sounds right.

Anyway, I am not a prude. IRL, I am happy to say any sorts of real words in place of euphemisms.

I suspect that it is because of Candid's recent post about the search terms people got to her site with. I don't want people coming around because they are looking for ways to feed their porn habit. So....I guess I will stick with the euphemisms for now.

Because in all reality, I really do like the word "bajingo." Has a nice ring to it. I happen to like mine, and will never stick thumbtacks into it :).

Just Felt Like Sharing Some Ridiculosity

Over at my favorite Ivy League tabloid-ish site I discovered a post about a Whartonite who just won the first ever $1M/year for life lottery.

Except that he's already a millionaire, he's in banking.

And he lives in London, so he won't have to pay federal taxes on it.

And he basically says, "That's great and all, but it's not going to change my life."

Man, talk about....I don't know It's not like he did anything wrong but something is wrong with the picture. Flying Spaghetti Monster, why oh why would you do something like that? Why??

Shit and Other Such Matters

I've been told by an industry contact that it will be hard to get a job with them, and I think they were my #1.

Shit shit shit!!! Poop on a platter!

Oh yeah, and crap. Crap crap crap!!!

Just my luck to be graduating during a shitty-ass downturn! Craptastic! Craptacular! I am so happy. Right.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Muffins and Voting

If you think my title is a non sequitur, it is. I just feel like talking about two totally different things.


Last night I made pumpkin spice muffins, 12 mini ones and 6 full size ones. They were delicious. I think Mr. PhizzleDizzle ate 2 large and several small just last night, and then more for breakfast today. This makes me happy. I have plenty more pumpkin to make more too. I have never been a very talented baker (Asians don't really bake - and who to learn to bake from but your mom? If your mom doesn't bake, you are shit out of luck, like me), but these were quite good and I am feeling super badass.


Procrastinator that I am, I registered to vote today, the very last day you are allowed to do so. No, it is not because I am a bad citizen and have not exercised my right before, it is just that since moving to this state, I had not registered and there were no elections so I just never did, until now.

Anyway, there were a few signs of the sad state of our society. I go to register, and I am paired with a very friendly young lady (god, did I just say that? that means I'm old. shit.) who filled out my forms. A few things to note:

1) She asked me whether I wanted to register with a party of be unaffiliated. I ask, "What does that really mean?" What I am looking for are implications of being registered or not. Like, black-box wise, what does that mean. Does that mean I get literature? Does that mean they will call me all the time asking for donations? What does that mean?

The girl thinks I am asking about what it means in a much simpler sense, "Well, there's the Republican Party...."

I am thinking to myself, "omfg, I know that." Like, either she's crazy, or the people that come in are just that uneducated, or I don't know.

So then she thinks that I think that if I register as a member of Party X, I am required to vote straight ticket come Election Day. Good god, I know that's not true. Do people think that's true? Then what the fuck is the point? Jesus Louisus, we need a national Civics class or something. Damn.

So she asks the lady next to her, who appears to be a veteran of voting affairs. She assures me that I can vote any way I want on Election Day regardless of how I affiliate myself.

I assure her that I understand that, but I want to know what the implications are. She says, they might send you literature.

I consider political literature to be propoganda and I prefer to find my own information, so I said, forget it. I am marked down as unaffiliated.

2) Then she has to take my previous address from which I was a registered voter. She does not know the Postal abbreviation for this state, which is fine. I don't know all of them either. Then, the older lady said, "State X? You mean Biggest City in State X?" *turns to girl* "You'll have to put that down."

Girl thinks that Biggest City is actually another state, and asks me what the code is for that. OMFG. I said, "No, I was not in Biggest City, I was in Small Town." I know that what they're after is just my frickin address, and old lady is just crazy. So I'm like, lemme just tell you my address.

The thing that drove me crazy was this totally weird concept of cities, states, and other such domains being equivalent, or they couldn't tell them apart, or what. It was just insane. This made me sad.

3) Finally, I am asked to look over my form before I sign it.

I notice that in the area where you are supposed to check your affiliation, it tells me that the only way to vote in primaries is to be affiliated with that particular party. Well, if there is a primary in the future, you better be damned sure I want to vote in it. On top of that, that's the kind of relevant info I wanted to know when I asked about it in the beginning. Like, the MOST important thing. Jeeza Louisa. So I'm like, well I change my mind then. This would have been helpful to know before, put me down as Party X (as if you can't guess what I put).

So, in the end, I am registered. I am going to exercise my right to vote. However, while taking part in this glorious privilege of ours, I am saddened to know that people are that fucking stupid. Either the Election people were stupid, or they come across so many stupid people that they are forced to conclude everyone is stupid and go down to stupid levels. Because I never meet anyone who assumes I'm that stupid, not even troll-y male professors. They at least give some benefit of the doubt, like that I know that there are two (major) fucking political parties in this country, and that gosh golly, we are allowed to vote however we fucking choose on Election Day.

god save us.