Friday, September 21, 2012

Other joys




There are so many things that make me happy. A good meal. Sunlight on trees. The crisp autumn air. My kids tucked in my arms. My husband holding my hand.

There are things that make me happy, that are hard for me to find time for. Books. Pleaure reading--the ultimate escape. And near twin to that is the pleasure of writing. Typing here in this blog, or indulging in masochistic attempts at fiction. Frankly, writing is not always pleasure for me--but I find it important for mental health. If I go too long without writing something down, I feel unsettled. If I go too long without escaping into fiction-reading, I begin to feel twitchy.

I am trying to run regularly. It's not always easy. It often sucks while I'm doing it, but it feels so good to have done it. That's what writing is like.

And it's not easy to find the time for running, either. September has been a bitch, throwing road blocks almost weekly into my exercise schedule. I know it's necessary for physical health. I know it's important for mental health. But between work and family responsiblities, it's so hard to find time.

Hard to find time for reading and writing. To find time for the joys that are independent of work and family.

Cloud alludes to this in her latest wonderful post on parenting and working and living at her blog Wandering Scientist. There are things in our lives that are sources of joy that are separate from our work lives and family lives. . . and so hard to fit in, when work and family are enough in themselves to overwhelm us.

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There is so much hype about "virtual reality", new immersive technologies, 3-D films that will make you feel like you're really there in a movie. But to date, the most powerful virtual reality technology ever invented remains the old-fashioned book.*

*including books in e-format. Although I still prefer the old-fashioned paper kind.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Darkness, light



The heat of summer finally died out; autumn slipped in with her golden glow. The skies are blue, the weather gorgeous. Children are out biking and playing; the roads are filled with joggers. And I spend most of my days sitting in darkness, listening to melancholy music.

Yes, I’m stuck in microscope hell.  Since this summer, I’ve spent most of my time in the institute basement, staring at the screen of a confocal microscope. Taking endless pictures of the same damn cell structures (with variations, of course). It’s mindless, soul-deadening work. I think it’s affecting my mind. Of course, listening to the same tracks of melancholy music (David Usher’s albums “Morning Orbit” and “Strange Birds”) can’t be helping matters. Somehow his songs have become my microscope music, however.  When I click the button to take a picture, it takes the set-up several seconds to scan in the complete image. Within that time span, I glance at news on the Internet. So I read about politics and horrible things happening in the world, and then the lyrics in my headphones suddenly clear and I hear the words from Usher’s “So far down”:

 “…Get your new tattoo
So we'll all look the same
Take the chemicals
That help you through the day

And damn, but it’s sad.

Yes, I need more sunlight. Yes, I would love to be done with these damn experiments.

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I don’t want to go too much into the science now, because I’m rather sick of it. I’ve complained and argued far too much these weeks/months, or so it feels. I’m peeved because I’m doing all this extensive quantitation that doesn’t actually tell me anything new.  I am only doing this rigorous quantitation of my phenotype to get statistical significance so as to satisfy hypothetical reviewers but I am not learning anything new about that phenotype. I’m just confirming statistically that, yes, there is a damn difference when I knock down my gene of interest. The difference is so freaking striking that a photograph should suffice, but of course reviewers may question whether or not the selected pictures really are “representative”, so I have to sit and painstakingly quantify the phenotype over hundreds of samples. In every which way. Hey, where’s the trust, people?!

Okay, I guess I had headspace to complain a bit here, after all.  I’m reminded of something my PI once said in a meeting: I just want people to leave me alone and let me mess around in the lab like I want.

Yup, that’s what I want. I guess I should thank my stars I get to do that at least some of the time.

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It’s the second week of school for my girls. Legume’s second week of kindergarten—her big entry into elementary school. She is doing terrifically.  Yesterday evening there was a meet-and-greet for the kindergarteners and their families at the school playground. Legume showed us all around “her” new playground. After popsicles and swings and monkeybars, I began insisting that it was time to get home and ready for bed. But then Legume and her older sister found a ball on the soccer field. They kicked it about and were then approached by a group of other children. Soon the kids were all playing their own version of soccer with elusive rules. Somehow, Legume was allowed to primarily monopolize the ball, with the four other children mostly playing the role of goalie simultaneously. It was late, but my husband and I let them play. We watched our girls flying over the soccer field with the other children, running light-footed in the golden light. They were so beautiful.