Well, we made it to Midwest Hometown (I think I've called it about 4 different names. Need to pick one and stick with it). Our trip was eeeeh, not so good. The dog threw up. Twice. Before we even made it to the highway. There was traffic and it is H.O.T. out! I thought it was fall while the Grackle was worried about not bringing a jacket. Instead, it was 86 degrees for the 12 hour drive in the car without a/c. I'm wearing shorts for the trip back. 

The dress I bought didn't fit, but my BFF might wear it to the rehearsal dinner tonight. There was a different one I tried on 3 weeks ago but was just waaay to expensive. Well, it went on sale (60% off!) and I snatched it up. Yay! Pretty things!  

Back to the debate......



So, this animal rights group  wants ice cream made of breast milk? For reals? 

I admit, I don't know that much about babies or breastfeeding. But just the idea of mass market production of breast milk seems pretty creepy. Not because it is breast milk but because they make a helluva lot of ice cream. 
In the letter they go into how wrong it is that cows are impregnated every nine months to assure production of enough milk to support the industry. So, how are you going to assure production of human breast milk? How many pregnant women would it take to produce as much milk as 1 pregnant cow* in the first place? 

I guess there should be enough if all of us are having lots of babies like we are supposed to.

* did I really just ask that? 


A bit more on reject but resubmit

As I recently mentioned, I was recently invited to resubmit a paper despite receiving all negative reviews. In discussions of a similar (but also very different) situation, someone suggested that that this might be a way for the journal to have first dibs on the paper at a later date. This may be very common when journals compete for papers. In this case, there are a handful of similar journals (in impact factor, speciality, etc.) that would be just as appropriate for the paper, so it is feasible that these journals compete. Plus, it is an awesome idea so obviously all the journals would want our paper*. 
All these similar journals compete for your submissions in the first place and others recently summarized how you might pick a journal. We chose this current journal because it had a pretty short turnaround time, published related papers and I've never published there before. 

This brings up another positive effect for the journal though. They publish the dates of receipt and acceptance and then you judge where to send your manuscript (in part) based on this. By going through a round of reject and resubmit- you can take care of a lot of the big problems with the manuscript. The next round of reviews will be easier to deal with and (in theory) be fixed more quickly. 

Therefore, if the journal publishes the receipt date of the resubmission and then the acceptance they can decrease the time to publication and ultimately attract more/better papers.  

Unfortunately, this could all be a crap idea brought upon by too much coffee and my increasingly boring dots**. I don't actually know if journals actually publish the original submission or resubmission date. Or if there has been an increase in this decision with increasing competition among journals. Any thoughts? 

*You know, except for the 2 that already rejected it. 
**I'm almost done, and left the boring samples till the end.


My demise

If the Grackle is upset about the prospects of my graduating and moving (not too far) away, he should just say so.
Instead, he is plotting my dissertation writing demise by signing up for a big fancy tv package. It is sports inspired, and it will actually be cheaper (and far more comfortable) than spending every Sunday at the sports bar eating nachos and watching our team.

Temptation, thy name is 250 channels.

Time to re-evaluate working from home. 

UPDATE: The equipment is actually incompatable with our 130 year old house. No new channels for us!

Seminar vs. Wedding

We have been planning on going to a wedding back home since early this year. Of course, now I realize that our plans conflict with a seminar speaker that I should see. The seminar series was not announced until long after our plans were made and I feel guilty for ditching one of the only talks that actually relates to topics of my dissertation. My research is concerned with view x of a thing while a lot of the profs in my department are more interested in view y of the thing. The talk is on view y...so it is of interest and I can see getting questions on it when I defend. Plus, it would be really interesting to meet the speaker and get his feedback on my research.

I am trying to resist my grad school cultivated guilt. Staying for the talk means changing our travel plans. We have a 12 hour drive and would drive a day, wedding day, drive back. We wouldn't get to see our families and it will be more stressful than fun.

There was a time when I would worry more about what people would think about my skipping seminar, but not at this point in my grad career. I'm older, crankier and there is just no way I'm driving 24 hours to be in town for only about 36. I'll make sure my advisor is ok with my plans and be on my way.

In other wedding related news- I have been searching for a dress to wear. It is a fancier wedding than I've been to as it is in a huge university chapel with a swanky country club reception. All of my dresses are more appropriate for summer/outdoor/informal affairs. The only other option is what I wore to the bride's brother's wedding last year. Different wedding, same dress? I think not.
So, I am buying a new dress and I love it so, so much. After calling 4 stores in East Coast State, none of them have it. I called 5 stores in Midwest State. One said they could get it from TX for me and I was about to give up*. Then, like magic, there was one dress in my size in the store that had been on an expired hold.
This is the dress I bought without seeing or trying on...
If it doesn't fit, I'll cry**.

*Apparently, it was on the Today Show and they are selling like hot cakes.
**And sell it to my bff, who also loves it.


Working from home- all day long!

Trying to work from home, be it writing or dealing with dots, is a dangerous game. Sometimes everything falls into place and you write 5 pages and sometimes you end up falling asleep on the couch with a cat on your head. So, in the spirit of what I've really been up to. Today I am live blogging my working from home. 
The goal: I need to catch up on my dots. After writing and going into school yesterday, I feel behind and want to catch up. The most I've ever accomplished in one day is 7 samples. Trying to beat that today. 
The setting: My living room. The couch is big, red, and comfy. A laptop stand makes it easy to type/do data stuff for long periods of time. I used to work at the dining room table and my desk but chairs in those places hurt my back after about 3 hours. There are two cats running around and 1 dog laying on his own couch upstairs. The most distracting/annoying aspect of working here is the buzzing of heaters/filters for the 6 aquaria in this room. 

But it is already almost 10 am! Why am I not working yet? Well, I had a filling fall out and had to get it fixed this morning despite my dentist phobia. The dentist was nice enough but the experience of having to go in the first place was still a bit traumatic. Then I stopped to get coffee and either there was a fender-bender and run in the parking lot OR somebody tried to steal a woman's car while she was inside. She asked me to call 911 for her, but I'm still not exactly sure what happened. Never a dull moment. 
Time to get to work though!
9:30-10am: check emails, blog.
10:15: Starting first sample.
10:43: Grackle comes home unexpectedly to get a pipe cutter that he needs at school. He comes in the front door (which he rarely does) and scares the crap out of me. I thought we were being broken into. AND I had to redo part of the sample because he distracted me.  
11:15: Starting second sample.
12:00pm: My face is still numb and I wish I had some Doritos. The Buffalo and Blue Cheese ones with the two kinds of chips in one bag....mmmmmmm....
2:30: Just finished up the 4th sample and prepping for a meeting later this afternoon. Lunch time!! This brings me to the best aspect of working from home. It makes me healthier. Instead of picking up a quick sandwich somewhere or worse- forgoing food altogether until I fill up on cookies at the seminar- I am enjoying some beans and rice. Plus when I need a little break, I can stretch with some yoga or run the dog around the backyard instead of walking down the hall to the desk with the candy. 
3:30: Meeting canceled. Woo hoo! Doing laundry instead.
5:30: Reached my usual number of 6 samples. 
5:45: Going running and will tie my record of 7 samples afterwards!


Beating overcommitment, but not really

I have a tendency to do overcommit myself. I like going to conferences, collaborating and starting new projects so usually there is a lot going on all at once. But right now I have to cut back on these things otherwise I'll never graduate. Must focus! All attention on graduation!* It is really difficult to say no to people, particularly when I really want to do other things. So what have I been turning down?
1) My 10 year high school reunion
2) A conference in a beautiful place in Mexico the weekend my draft is due to the dean (there was even travel money available!)
3) An invited seminar tacked onto the end of that conference
4) Another conference that my collaborator (who is organizing a symposium) is trying to talk me into going/contributing to. This is the week I am hoping to defend.
5) My departments' informal student seminar series (not so much a turning down as a refusal)

There are some things that I just can't say no to/give up so the Grackle and I will be heading to our Mighty Midwest Hometowns for a wedding later this month. We are also hosting some friends visiting in October. 

On the work end of things, I heard back about my final paper that was submitted this summer. This was the second journal I've sent this paper too (first submission was in Jan 2007). The reviews from that first journal were so bad that I was told there may not be anything to salvage from the work. Salvage, I did! And this time the results were a bit better- two out of three negative reviews, yet we are still got that lovely gem of 'reject but resubmit'. 
I really don't have time for this right now but can't really say no to it. Hopefully the reviews will seem easier to handle after I ignore them for 2 days but they still are going to say, 'test more dots' and 'test a different type of dot'. I no longer have access to those dots so if the editor really, really expects more dots, we are in for a flat out rejection. It just seems weird that we were asked to resubmit with these major additional experiments. The editor does similar tests and knows that redoing them in the time frame for resubmission is impossible. The worst part of this is the time frame- we have 6 short weeks to resubmit. 6 weeks! They have had the paper since June (12 weeks to be exact) but we don't even get that long to rewrite it? 

So, what to do besides bitch about it? I sent it to my coauthor, who is also getting to the end of her PhD and has a habit of not getting back to me for months at a time (between her fieldwork, her husband's fieldwork, and sometimes just being a flake). Surprisingly, she is in the country and sees this as a worthwhile endeavor. I'll have a true re-vision of the paper in 3 days (because she is an amazing superstar when she actually calls me back). We will have to write some strong rebuttals and hope for the best.  

*And, uh, blogging. With a side of football. But I can totally work and watch football at the same time. 


Fundable research project

Somebody needs to write an NIH grant to study Paula Deen. How on Earth is that woman still kickin' while eating crap like this?* The picture alone is worth clicking the link but it comes down to this: 1/2 burger + bacon + egg fried in butter sandwiched between 2 Krispy Kreme donuts.  Gee, Paula, you forget the cheese! 

*Ok, she probably doesn't actually eat any of the food she writes recipes for. 

2 acceptances in 2 days!

My lab has seen a flurry of manuscript submissions this year. We are all trying to get side projects finished and published. My advisor (who needs a good bird name) has long term projects that he rotates new students onto and smaller projects to be completed in the lab during your first couple of years before you are really set on your own dissertation research. Many times these smaller projects are pilot studies or will eventually be a part of your larger project, but not always. I was involved on 2 large, long term projects and 2 small lab projects. All 4 will result in something published with my name on it but only one is even remotely related to my dissertation work (and only because it is on similar types of dots). 

In the big push to get all my non-dissertation stuff out, I have submitted or resubmitted 5 times this year. Yesterday morning I got the email that the biggest of these (in importance to me and in journal quality) is finally accepted!!!! Yay!!!!! The journal has a quick turnaround so it might even be out this year*! 

Then, this morning I heard back about a second paper. Also accepted!! Woo freakin Hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!

There is a big relief in getting the first paper out- we didn't have a backup journal planned and to be honest, I was starting to get really discouraged. Altogether, I've been rejected on various papers 7 times in a row and it was starting to get to me. People have different views on rejections and it seems that for every well meaning 'If you are not getting rejected, you are not aiming high enough' comment there is a careless 'If you are getting rejected, your work obviously isn't good enough'. The second paper is a big relief for our last author. She submits her tenure packet tomorrow and can move this to her "In Press" list before it goes out! 

It is so nice to get some much needed some good news on the publication front. It makes me excited to get back to writing! Having a lighter load with these projects finally off my back makes everything a little easier...

* I would really like a 2008 paper.


Let the games begin!

I know some of you out there are ready for football season!! The Grackle and I are big fans of our hometown teams from the Windy City so you know we will be cheering on the worst QB the NFL has ever seen tonight against one of the leagues best*.

This year marks my first foray into fantasy football though. I ended up with a terrible team after the draft. It was laughable, but after adding a few long shots and a few new guys, I'm just hoping for the best. So far, I'm losing but most of my guys haven't played yet...

Hope you are all having a great Sunday!!

* At least the Cubs haven't blown it yet!



One of the cool things about my department is that students are put in offices with students from other labs and walks of research life. My two officemates are basically both in different programs. At another university, we would all be in different departments. Despite this, when we get into the data collection phase, we all speak the same language because when it comes down to it, we all just count dots. After careful and difficult manipulations, one officemate counts different colored dots, the other counts differently shaped dots and I have done quite a bit of dot counting in my time as well.
Currently, I am seeing what happens to a dot over time and the way my experiments were run, I can observe my dots from the comfort of my AC lacking, cat and dog filled home*. Unfortunately, collecting dot data is tedious and boring. After a few hours, I can hardly see straight and my mind is mush. I am about halfway through and can't wait to be done.

...back to the dots....

* post coming soon on wonders of working from home.


Mapping out the semester

Thanks for all the good wishes about the postdoc! I am still super psyched and am trying to carry that excitement over to my remaining dissertation work. Here is what is left to do:

1) Finish data collection for Chapter 3. Another lab is processing samples for me while I collect the rest. This is hugely time intensive and really, really boring. Really.
2) Analyze data. Need to use a new program for this but have done a lot of groundwork/reading about it.
2) Write up Chapter 2. Everything is done, it has been analyzed, presented at conferences and I'm 2200 words into a first draft. Not many, but it is started.
3) Write up Chapter 1. Should be fairly straight forward.
4) Write up Chapter 3/4. This might be two chapters depending on the data.

In the past 9 months or so, I haven't been great about keeping deadlines for myself. While a lot got done, I had plans to get even more done and wasn't bothered by pushing back, say, my goal date to submit Chapter 2, in order to finish up side projects.

Now it is urgent to finish the dissertation. Thankfully, my fellowship for this semester will help me meet the following new deadlines:
September 30th: Chapters 1 and 2 drafts to advisor. Finish data collection.
October 31st: Chapter 3/4 analysis completed and draft to advisor.
November 11: Complete draft to Dean.
November ?: Defend dissertation.
December 5: Free from the shackles of grad student life forever!

It is really strange that my day planner is getting more use now than ever, despite the lack of classes, assignments, meetings, etc etc etc!


Best news ever!

After talking with my potential postdoc advisor today, it is no longer a potential.

I have a postdoc! Starting in January!!*

The project is good, the advisor is awesome, lots of potential for collaboration and flexibility to grow scientifically, plus it is pretty much the closest I can geographically be to the Grackle and our nest without compromising my scientific interests.

The biggest surprise of it all was that after looking at her numbers, she has offered me two guaranteed years of funding instead of just one. The situation could not be better.

It is all still sinking in.......

*Holy shit, I have to finish now....