August 2009 Scientiae Carnival: Summer Days, Driftin’ Away

Scientiae_Logo_sm.jpg
Welcome to the August 2009 edition of Scientiae, the blog carnival of “stories of and from women in science, engineering, technology, and math.”
[Apologies at the outset for missing the submission from ScienceWoman, co-blogger at Sciencewomen, entitled, “Unhurried summer mornings”]
I’m honored to be the first man invited to host the carnival. The invitation means a great deal to me on a number of levels: my laboratory has run between 75% and 100% women during my years in the business, including all of my PhD students, and I have a brilliant physician-scientist wife who has given us a joyous and creative mini-woman whose wisdom and creativity belies her almost-seven years.
It was while thinking of PharmGirl and the PharmKid that I came up with this month’s carnival theme, mostly out of my own disappointment and frustration that the summer is almost over and no vacation is in sight between my work and the off-cycle nature of each of our academic years. Things will only get busier as we shuttle into the fall and I doubt that we will be able to take any significant time off for one another until Christmas break. Hell, I even had to send apology e-mails to all of the contributors for being late with posting the carnival because I needed to spend time with my family yesterday after an all-day student recruiting trip on Saturday.
I figured I wasn’t the only one feeling this way so I proposed this month’s theme as:

Summer days, driftin’ away. . .
Consider how you balance the demands and pleasures of this season. Have you found ways to make progress on your must-dos while also taking time for your family, friends – and yourself – and being in the moment of this time of year? Or are July and August just another month for you?

Well, sadly, the vast majority of contributors were in various states of juggling catch-up and preparation for the academic year, many putting work well ahead of themselves and their loved ones at what is supposed to be the time of relaxation and renewal in the Northern Hemisphere. But they are not all tales of woe and frustration. Even those pushed to their limit still wrote about little things they remembered about why they loved summer so much at one time.
I don’t have the answers, certainly not with my own example. So, let’s hear what our friends have to say:
Kids and husbands
My Rockies geologist colleague, Dr Kim Hannula, submitted a very gneiss post (pun intended, although she’s probably tired of taking all this schist from me) from her blog, All of My Faults Are Stress-Related. Being tenured at a teaching-oriented school gives her the “freedom” to spend the summer with her six-year-old, freedom which causes her to be on-call 24/7. Relief comes when her husband and boy go camping and she takes in the luxury of her campus office where few others can be found this time of year.
The next post is “Lazy Summer Days?” from ScientistMother: raising my own little experiment. Similar to Kim, ScientistMother is also overwhelmed with caring for the little one but for many more reasons: Mr SM works nearly 24/7 in a family business where summer is crunchtime.

With the mister gone so often, I’m in single mom mode. Which is fine, but now monkey is at an age where (a) he misses his dad (b) he misses his dad. He doesn’t always understand why Daddy’s not home.

I hate you, Abel
Well, not that they hate me exactly, but these posts brought out the most exasperated of the contributors.
My dear colleague Candid Engineer, author of Candid Engineer in Academia, abruptly and characteristically shatters my visions of cool summer nights in the mountains or flying kites at the seashore by responding in “It’s a Cruel, Cruel Summer” to my question: “Have you found ways to make progress on your must-dos while also taking time for your family, friends – and yourself – and being in the moment of this time of year?”

Ahahahahahaha!!!!!!11!!!!11!!!!
In short, NO. No, I have not found a way to make progress while also taking time for others and myself.
But that is okay. That, for me, was expected.

The undergraduate intern and the “damn conference” take much of the heat and our mutual friend PhysioProf shows up in the comments to compassionately share his wisdom with CE.
Propter Doc at Lecturer Notes contributed “Tell me more…” where she sums up her sentiments concisely: “Summer 2009 is, if possible, more stressful than term time.” This theme was common to the majority of submissions. In this case, PD is in her first summer after appointment as lecturer with personal and professional to-do lists that remind me of my first year on faculty. But colleagues a year or two ahead of her are taking the month of August off – lazy sods if you ask me – so hang in there until next year!
“This was a rushed and grumpy contribution to scientiae,” writes JaneB author of the blog, Now what was I doing? Her post, “Summer days, slipping away,” is what you might expect based on the title but I drew a refreshing and distinct change in my emotions when I read the second paragraph of this excerpt:

I’m not very good at summer. What with the hayfever, strong reaction to insect bites, heat rash, dislike of humidity, general grumpiness and shutting down of functions above about 27 degrees C, and the oppressive sense that I should be having fun.
It makes me want to be a kid again. Those endless days with no agenda, no rules… reading under a tree, lying on the grass trying to feel the earth spin and cloudwatching, pond-dipping, etc. etc. At least I appreciated it at the time, and was very rarely bored.

I love my family but. . .
I couldn’t decide whether to put the next contribution above until I received two submissions that discussed traveling to visit family. This missive is from another first-year faculty member, my hiking boot-recommender Professor in Training, “a new, female assistant professor in the biomedical sciences at Really Big U.” The reader knows where we’re going right from the title, “Summer? What Summer?”:

As a frazzled first year assistant professor who lives half a world away from her family, an entire continent away from her closest friends and who continues to add to her list of injuries, ailments and illnesses on a daily basis, my summer has been shot to hell. TO HELL, DAMN IT!

But in the midst of her post, I find glimpses of a few happy things despite getting sick on the trip to see family halfway around the world, shoulder surgery, and the breast cancer scare. Her commenter, Genomic Repairman, came by with a rather thoughtful comment that sums up much of the post if not this entire carnival:

Summer is like this mythical period of productivity that elusively slips through our grips as were are mired in the daily minutia of science.

Hannah at Women in Astronomy opens her post “Summertime” with a PhD Comic. While talking about her research, it was this paragraph that I think we’ll all find universal:

Traveling to visit family does not count as vacation in my book. I’m with Tajel’s advisor on this one: “you spent the whole time thinking and obsessing about your research project.” Perhaps this is because I often get the feeling of “I’m taking time away from my research to do WHAT?!?” I love my parents, but they do drive me crazy.

Working in a vacation destination
Patchi at The Middle Years is about five years out from her PhD, now working for a private research foundation in my former home of Florida. In her submission, “Summer Thoughts,” these points become relevant because she is no longer on a semester schedule and lives in a place where, “I can only tell that it is officially summer by the dwindling number of cars on the road when most of the students take off.” The luxury to take vacations off-cycle (and to live in a great vacation destination already) makes summers less frantic, although she clearly works very hard. Her closing line, “Maybe I’ll even escape the football season pandemonium, but that might be hoping for too much…,” brings for me some fond memories.
Karina at Ruminations of an Aspiring Ecologist is the only blogger who responded to my queries from the Southern Hemisphere, sort of, since she conducts her field research in the pseudonymous African country of Ukenzagapia.
In her post, “Summer days, driftin’ away,” Karina misses the comforts of home and the company of her husband but still can’t escape summer pressures while being in African winter:

Even in Ukenzagapia this is crunch time. I’ve got several days of data collection left, and I’m not sure yet exactly when I’ll leave my field site. My last possible day in the field is August 11, but if I can wrap things up sooner I will. I’m also thinking ahead for what needs to be done this fall (my review paper, grant applications, data analysis…) and trying to get my ducks in a row for that to go smoothly.

The costs and benefits of striking balance
For some reason, I hadn’t read Kate before at her blog Academic Ecology – I know this because I would’ve remembered her pithy tagline, “Crappily Pseudonymous Since 2005.” She speaks of being a faculty member, a parent, and the owner of a 90-year-old house to be three, full-time jobs. With the modest pay of academia (tagline: the hours are long, but at least the pay is lousy), she and her husband have now considered getting help with housecleaning:

So I guess the summer has been useful, or at least instructive: TD and I cannot do everything and be everyone. And if we are to have rich relationships with our daughter, other things will have to slide or other people will have to do them. A colleague of TD’s recently advised us that money should be spent to buy time. If that money means the three of us get to spend more time together, rather than putting La Dudarina in more hours of care, or having one parent watch her while the other toils with the mop or at the stovetop, then I’m spending the money.

I have to apologize first to ScienceWoman, co-blogger at Sciencewomen, for somehow overlooking her post when cutting and pasting the carnival together. Perhaps it was because I was subconsciously envious of her solution in balancing work and time with the unbridled joy de vrie personified in her daughter, Minnow: “Unhurried summer mornings”:

Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot by reducing my summer workload from what it could be if I continued my school year breakneck pace. But I feel like my summer has been productive, its given me the time to recharge my energy and stock up my bank of fun times with Minnow. Most of all though, it gives Minnow time to just be her own person, with her own stuff, with her unstressed Mommy’s attention, for a few extra hours per day. And if giving Minnow that time extracts a cost on my career, then it’s a price I am totally willing to pay.

Methinks that Kate and ScienceWoman have it totally spot on.
Best balanced!
I want to close the carnival, however, with three even more positive posts.
Wise mentor to many of us, Pat Campbell, writes to us about her busy balanced summer in “Summer days, driftin’ away…,” at Fairer Science. But it was her previous post from 27th July that really caught my eye: swimming 3/4th of the way across the Hudson River with Tom is perhaps the most impressive thing thing they’ve done this summer not just for the distance and Tom having had a broken neck last year, but for the sheer bravery of putting one’s near-naked bodies into the Hudson River. Just be careful with the mushrooms, you crazy kids!
Aurora at Life in Academia brings us “Fun in the Sun.” In this case, she appears to have managed the balance of bringing both the kids and productive work to the town pool, all while not looking like an absent-minded professor.
Regular readers of Terra Sigillata know of my great fondness for Canadians, especially Canadian scientists. Two of the finest women to walk through my lab doors were Canadian and I count a few Canadians among my most creative colleagues.
So, it was no surprise to me that I give Mrs Comet Hunter the carnival’s award for Most Balanced Summer for her post, “Summer Days.” Indeed, Mrs CH should be giving a work-life academic workshop to all of us. While we are all steaming and reading these carnival posts, Mrs CH and DH are on a “trip of a lifetime” for three weeks in South America:

All in all, this summer has been one of the best since I started graduate school for work and personal time! Hopefully the level of productivity will continue!

Afterword
I really didn’t mean for this carnival to be such a bummer. I think we have all learned that regardless of our disciplines and times in our careers, it is still difficult to achieve work-life balance even at a time when we should be giving ourselves license to take care of ourselves.
I’m still not happy that we’ll be working here right up through to the start of classes and I really don’t feel that I have a choice. For most of the contributors, I don’t see that their situations are much of a choice either but rather evolutions of academic research life. There’s always next summer.
Many thanks again to skookumchick for inviting me to host this edition of Scientiae and to each of the contributors with trusting me to shepherd their thoughtful reflections out to the intertubes.
Even if you can’t take the vacation you want, please take the laptop and your favorite drink outside to read these posts. Breathe deeply, smell the summer air, feel the humidity on your skin, and take a little vacation in your mind with all of the online compatriots who share your journey. You deserve it!

Dude still allowed to host August Scientiae Carnival: Call for posts!

Scientiae_Logo_sm.jpgWell, a week has passed since I first issued a call for posts for the August Scientiae Carnival with the theme “Summer Days, Driftin’ Away.”

Consider how you balance the demands and pleasures of this season. Have you found ways to make progress on your must-dos while also taking time for your family, friends – and yourself – and being in the moment of this time of year? Or are July and August just another month for you?
And so as not to exclude our colleagues in the Southern Hemisphere (where I am fortunate to draw 5-7% of my blog visitors), why don’t you take this time from your winter and reflect upon how you will enjoy your summer?
To submit entries, all you need to do is look here for submission information or read the following:
Please e-mail (to scientiaecarnival at gmail) the permalink URL to your posts to scientiaecarnival at ye olde gmail by Friday 31 July. I’ll compile them and post the carnival on either Saturday 1 August or, more likely, Sunday 2 August.

More submission details are here.
I was honored to learn that I am the first blogger bearing a Y chromosome who has been asked to host the carnival. As far as I can tell, carnival keeper skookumchick is still alive and in possession of all of her appendages and my credentials to access the Scientiae Carnival submission e-mail account still work.
So now that it is Friday, why don’t you reflect over the weekend on the theme and prepare a post? You’ve still got a whole week.
Many thanks to all who have already responded with some great contributions!

August Scientiae Call for Posts! – Summer Days, Driftin’ Away

Scientiae_Logo_sm.jpgMy Y chromosome and I are supremely honored to have been invited by skookumchick to host the August edition of Scientiae, the blog carnival of “stories of and from women in science, engineering, technology, and math.” But remember: “Posts are welcome from women and men and everyone in between if they focus on the topic of the Carnival.”
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it is summer. In academia in particular, summer is often a time when institutional responsibilities (teaching, committees) are at somewhat of a lull – still buzzing but less demanding than usual for most. One has much more time to devote to research and other scholarly efforts that may have come second to teaching and service during the primary academic year.
However, summer is also supposed to be a time for renewal, recharging, and reconnecting – an opportunity to take some time off and take care of yourself a little better, perhaps at least a little better than during the Spring semester. The sun is out longer, you can spend more time with your family, get in a run after work, take a vacation at the beach or mountains – maybe even visit a foreign country. Perhaps you even mix work with pleasure and take advantage of a scholarly workshop in a great destination.
But competing with this concept is often the albatross of unfinished papers, the need for field research, new grant applications, summer students, and preparing for fall academic responsibilities.
For example, there will be no summer vacation for the PharmFamily; perhaps not even more than a weekend away until at least Christmas. The first of July saw the beginning of a new training year for my better half, this week found our daughter starting her next grade as we are on a year-round elementary school schedule, and I am living in academic hell. We all need a vacation – badly. I personally need to get away from the heat and humidity for the dry air of Colorado and the intense colors of nature that only hypoxemia and the Rocky Mountain West can provide.
I recognize that not all past and prospective Scientiae contributors are in academia. But I know that all of us battle during the summer with what we need to do and what we want to do.
So, I propose the theme for the August Scientiae carnival is:
Summer days, driftin’ away. . .
Consider how you balance the demands and pleasures of this season. Have you found ways to make progress on your must-dos while also taking time for your family, friends – and yourself – and being in the moment of this time of year? Or are July and August just another month for you?
And so as not to exclude our colleagues in the Southern Hemisphere (where I am fortunate to draw 5-7% of my blog visitors), why don’t you take this time from your winter and reflect upon how you will enjoy your summer?
To submit entries, all you need to do is look here for submission information or read the following:
Please e-mail the permalink URL to your posts to scientiaecarnival at ye olde gmail by Friday 31 July. I’ll compile them and post the carnival on either Saturday 1 August or, more likely, Sunday 2 August.
Many thanks to the Skook-meister for trusting me with hosting the carnival and to each of you in advance for your usual insightful and engaging reflections.

Fullsteam Brewery founder and local-ag guru, Sean Wilson, to appear on WUNC-FM’s The State of Things

The local food movement is not local here in the sprawling US. Hence why am posting this note here.
fullsteam.jpgNorth Carolina beer saint and local-ag brewer, Sean Lily Wilson, will be on the radio in about an hour. We featured Sean back in January when the state’s flagship newspaper named him Tar Heel of the Week for his efforts to modify our draconian beer laws to allow high-gravity beers, especially many of our European favorites, to be sold statewide.
Sean’s a good man, a great dad, and epitomizes community on so many levels. If you’re not local, you can listen to him together with two other great local foodies at wunc.org/tsot – the podcast will be available later in the day:

Sip Local – Can We Interest You in a Local Beverage? The Triangle’s robust eat-local scene with its markets, grocers and farm-to-table restaurants means thoughtful consumers can know where their food is coming from. But what about their drinks? Is it possible to “sip local” when you’re enjoying coffee, wine, tea or beer? Host Frank Stasio talks to Lex Alexander, founder of Wellspring Grocery and owner of 3Cups, about the past and future of the local-food movement in the Triangle. We’ll also meet Dorian Bolden, a young, Durham-based coffee shop entrepreneur; Margo Knight-Metzger, head of the N.C. Wine and Grape Council; and Sean Wilson, who successfully led the Pop the Cap movement to loosen state laws regulating beer. He has a new North Carolina-themed brewery in the works. (32:00)

Click here and look to the Live Stream options on the right sidebar – the show airs at 12 noon, EST (1700 GMT).
The Fullsteam boys keep a mighty fine blog/website. Sean can be followed on Twitter @fullsteam as well as his brewmaster, Chris, @fullsteam32.
Previous posts on Sean Wilson:
Sean Wilson: Pop-the-Cap leader and Fullsteam Brewery founder named Tar Heel of the Week
The Friday Fermentable: Beer Builds Community

Call for entries: Hourglass biology of aging carnival

As I sang the praises the other day about Chris Patil’s contributions to a recent PLoS biology paper and in launching the Hourglass blog carnival, I wanted to post the call for submissions:

Hi all —
I just posted the call for submissions for Hourglass V, the fifth installation of our blog carnival about the biology of aging.
This edition will be hosted by me, at Ouroboros.
Please send submissions to hourglass[dot]host[at]gmail.com .
What we’re looking for:
> Topics of posts should have something to do with the biology of aging, broadly
> speaking — including fundamental research in biogerontology, age-related
> disease, ideas about life extension technologies, your personal experience
> with calorie restriction, maybe even something about the sociological
> implications of increased longevity. Opinions expressed are not necessarily
> those of the management, so feel free to subvert the dominant paradigm. If in
> doubt, submit anyway.
More about the carnival (and links to previous editions) can be found at http://ouroboros.wordpress.com/hourglass/.
Thanks and cheers — I look forward to your fascinating submissions 🙂
Chris

Hourglass call for entries: carnival on the biology of aging

I just received a lovely e-mail from Dr Chris Patil, blogger at Ouroboros and postdoc fellow in the lab of the well-known aging researcher, Dr Judith Campisi at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Chris dialed me up to submit one of my posts to Hourglass, a monthly blog carnival he launched in July that focuses on the field of biogerontology. Chris used the celebration of his second blogiversary to establish the carnival.
Hourglass goes up on the 2nd Tuesday of each month and the next installment will be hosted on 9 September by Alvaro Fernandez over at SharpBrains. I told Chris that I’d put up a call to our readers to submit any appropriate posts to Alvaro at the gmail address of hourglass.host.
Here are the guidelines – I particularly like Chris’ wording to potential purveyors of woo:

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Thanks to Martin at The Lay Scientist for launching the Praxis blog carnival

I am officially embarrassed.
It was recently brought to my attention that my previous post misattributed the new Praxis blog to Bora Zivkovic.
Bora did indeed host the first edition of Praxis, the new blog carnival of academic life.
However.
The Praxis experimental carnival of “the experience of living the scientific” was established, founded, and otherwise continues to be led by Martin, author of The Lay Scientist blog.

Martin.gifMini Bio:
Well I’m Martin, I live in Cambridge, England, and this is me on the Amazon in 2007. I did a frankly weird Ph.D. looking at the relationship between models from ecology, immunology and socioeconomics, and currently I’m a soon-to-be-unemployed post-doc working on ecological and biological modeling.

Bora did indeed suggest the idea in his comment to his own post on blog carnivals.
But it was Martin who on that very same day conceived and compiled the listing, call for a name, called for hosts and posts, and all else associated with establishing a new blog carnival: guidelines, schedule, etc.
And you’ve got to love a gent who leads off Sunday morning with a post entitled, “What Does Human Flesh Taste Like?” that refers to science itself and not that crackergate fiasco.
That is all. Carry on.

Bora runs out of internet; starts new carnival – CORRECTION: Martin (The Lay Scientist) is the actual founder

CORRECTION: The following was to be a part-sincere/part-serious sendup of my buddy Bora’s penchant for monitoring the entire Internet. Bora did indeed host the first edition of Praxis, the new blog carnival of academic life.
However.
The Praxis experimental carnival of “the experience of living the scientific” was established, founded, and otherwise continues to be led by Martin, author of The Lay Scientist blog.

Martin.gifMini Bio:
Well I’m Martin, I live in Cambridge, England, and this is me on the Amazon in 2007. I did a frankly weird Ph.D. looking at the relationship between models from ecology, immunology and socioeconomics, and currently I’m a soon-to-be-unemployed post-doc working on ecological and biological modeling.

Bora did indeed suggest the idea in his comment to his own post on blog carnivals. But it was Martin who on that very same day conceived and compiled the listing, call for a name, called for hosts and posts, and all else associated with establishing a new blog carnival: guidelines, schedule, etc.
And you’ve got to love a gent who leads off Sunday morning with a post entitled, “What Does Human Flesh Taste Like?” that refers to science itself and not that crackergate fiasco.


PraxisI’ve gotta say that I sometimes feel sorry for my bud, Bora Zivkovic. It seems as though Teh Internetz aren’t big enough to exhaust his attention so he feels that he must start a new blog carnival. He mused about it a couple of weeks ago, and now here it is:
Bora is hosting the first edition of Praxis, whose mission statement is as follows:

The carnival is intended to cover all aspects of life as an academic, whether it’s the lifestyle, career progress, doing a Ph.D., getting funding, climbing the slippery pole, academic life as a minority, working with colleagues and students, dealing with the peer-review process, publishing, grants, science 2.0, amusing anecdotes, conference experiences, philosophical musings, public engagement, or even historical articles about what life was like in the good (or bad) old days.

Praxis is derived from the term by Aristotle as the activity or process of practicing or enacting knowledge.
I used to write a lot more about academic mentoring and such but have really dropped off as of late. Still, the Amazing Zivkovic was generous enough to find and grab two of our recent posts to put in Praxis, one on the NEJM article on medical curriculum revision and the other a brief blurb on the latest act of terrorism against researchers who employ animal subjects.

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Last call for entries – NC Primary edition of Tar Heel Tavern

Offer extended through Friday! Friday! Friday! 2 May!!!!
Submit entries to tarheeltavern.abel at gmail.

goodnessNC%20250px.pngFor the first time since I’ve lived here, the NC primary will actually matter especially given that Clinton and Obama appear to now be running neck-and-neck in PA.
The Tar Heel Tavern was an early blog carnival, with contributions on numerous topics from the unusually dense NC blogging community. The first THT was hosted by Bora Zivkovic at his old blog, Science and Politics, back on 27 February 2005.
I’ve offered to resurrect the carnival in time for the NC primary with the topic, “What would you want the rest of the world to know about North Carolina?” I’ll be accepting entries at tarheeltavern.abel at gmail through Friday 2 May, with the goal of posting on Saturday 3 May. The carnival is open to anyone in NC or anyone who has ever trained in, lived in, or visited NC in order to be as inclusive as possible. In fact, the Tavern is now open to anyone who wishes to write a post on anything about North Carolina.

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I Am Naughty – Grand Rounds 4.31

So says Dr Val Jones at Dr Val’s Revolution Health Blog, host of this week’s Grand Rounds medical blog carnival. The good doctor classified the posts as follows:

[:-)] = A post that demonstrates literary excellence
[{] = Early bird – an author who got his/her submission in early, which is really convenient for the host(ess)
[:-/] = Naughty – an author who forgot to submit an entry to Grand Rounds but who was included nonetheless

Hence, Val classifies me as naughty because she was kind enough to include my post, “Must people die before DSHEA is repealed?,” even though I was so inconsiderate in forgetting to submit for this week’s Grand Rounds.
So, go on over to Dr Val’s and read Grand Rounds 4.31, the best of this week’s medical blogosphere. My nomination for most entertaining post comes from Dr Rob’s Musings of a Distractible Mind and his post on parenting tips, including why one shouldn’t let their child blow up 213 balloons with their nose.