Friday, November 30, 2007

Blurg v. Blerg - The Decisive Answer

So, after another lengthy search, quite similar to the one in yesterday's post, the answer has presented itself. In episode 2 of season 2 of 30 Rock, there was a reference to the Liz's office furniture that was still unassembled. They show a one second clip of the furniture box with the manufacturer name of "blërg" - so technically, both Mike and myself were wrong. But at least there is closure on the subject and everyone will be able to sleep tonight.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Path of a Procrastinator

Fairly often I find myself just searching for something to do instead of what I should be doing (i.e. working, cleaning or whatever else needs to be done). Many times I will simply play a video game of some kind to, as I like to call it, keep my mind sharp (for puzzle type games) or maintain my hand-eye coordination (for action/shooter/sports games). At work, it's more difficult to play games, so often the digression will be through web surfing. I'm sure that nearly everyone does this, especially since I see that most people that comment on this site, do so during traditional work hours. I sense that I am not alone.

The path of procrastination that was taken today was a somewhat interesting one, one that deserves being shared. I always thought that the theme song for the TV show House was pretty interesting, and I assumed that it was written for the show. However, when the new video game, Assassin's Creed (which looks sweet, by the way), began using it, or something extremely similar to it - except it had a vocal part. So the goal was to find out about the song. A simple Wikpedia search, and I have found the page for the TV show House. Luckily, there's a header entitled "theme music" with information including the artist and song title (a British band called Massive Attack and the song is entitled "Teardrop" from 1998). A quick click onto the song title and there is plenty of information including it's usage on television - including the advertisement for the Assassin's Creed video game. Also, on this page, it mentions that there is a video and it contains a lip-syncing fetus. This I have to see, so I'm off to Yahoo Music. Luckily they have the video. This journey then ends with me discovering how to embed videos here in this blog, so as my gift to all of you, here is a music video containing a singing fetus. Enjoy and happy procrastinating!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Coming soon...

I had been waiting for the right deal to present itself. Cyber Monday provided it. In anticipation for purchasing a new television, I had been slowly upgrading a few electronic components. I had picked up the HD-DVD attachment for the xbox360 and had an HD cable box installed, even though I didn't have anything capable of displaying an HD image. Sunday, that will change, when my new 50" Sony Bravia 1080p HDTV is scheduled to arrive. I had also been holding out in posting photos of my new apartment until I replaced my old television. How embarrassing would it have been to show the world what my place looked like with an old 27" tube television sitting in the central location of my living space? Blerg.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post 50 - Part II

Yes, yes, this probably makes Post 50 - Part II more like Post 51, but whatever. There isn't really a new topic here, it's the continuation of yesterday's already long post - sans sports. So, here's more random thoughts about TV shows.

Long Running Shows Altering Their Theme Songs - Anyone notice that several shows have changed their theme songs? It's really the most pointless part of the program, but it's still noticeable. I think that most of the programs that have altered their theme songs have gotten worse than they were before. Nip/Tuck had the simple rhythmic music, but now it has lyrics and kinda sucks. CSI:NY (the best of the CSI series) decided to techno-up Baba O'Riley by The Who - which should not have been done. It's one thing to use a classic song as an intro, but why screw with it? I can understand having a band cover a classic song, but turning a classic rock song into a techno-ish song makes no sense.

NBC's Monday Night Line-up - Being the big sci-fi fan that I am, the Monday night line-up of Chuck, Heroes and Journeyman, couldn't get much better. All three shows are "serial" format (meaning each show builds on the one before it... for anyone that didn't know, for those that did know, I apologize for insulting your intelligence), which I tend to eat up. Chuck is a good mix of humor and action - the lead character works for the Nerd Herd at Buy More (an obvious fictional version of the Geek Squad, Best Buy's computer tech division) and accidentally downloaded the entire database of the U.S. government secrets into his brain. He now assists the CIA/NSA to use the info stored in his brain to thwart evil plots while attempting to maintain his normal life. How could anyone not find Chuck amusing when in the pilot episode he downloaded a virus from a porn site to shut down a computer attached to a bomb - porn saved the world - hilarious! Heroes is always entertaining and very dark. Individual heroes and villains cross paths through an intricately woven plot that takes an entire season to develop. There's something about a show that has every episode end in a cliffhanger that keeps me interested and wanting more. Heroes has taken the formula from the best show on television (Battlestar Galactica) and applied it to live action comic books. Journeyman is basically a reinvented Quantum Leap. The concept is the same, in that the main character travels through time and helps people. In this version, he visits someone from the past at their most critical junctures and has to try to help without damaging the timeline. If you thought Quantum Leap was good, then you'll probably like this one as well. Anyway, all three shows are well written and entertaining. It makes Mondays something to look forward to... or whatever day you end up watching the shows that you record on Monday nights. Ah, DVRs, what a brilliant invention. I could never go back to watching TV without it.

Battlestar Galactica: Razor - As mentioned earlier - Battlestar Galactica is the best show on television. For those of you who haven't seen it, you are really missing out. However, those that haven't seen the show, shouldn't start watching it with the 2 hour movie that aired on the weekend (called Razor), because it won't make any sense. Well, I suppose it would make sense, but it just wouldn't mean as much because the first time viewer wouldn't know any of the characters or any of the storylines that led up to this point. Razor tells the story about the battlestar, Pegasus, and it's journey between the time of the Cylon attack of the colonies until the point that it meets up with Galactica in the second season of the show. More or less, this movie just visualized the bits and pieces of the battlestar's story that was broken up across several episodes in the second season. Was Razor necessary? Not really, but I guess they decided that some new Battlestar episode needed to be aired to keep the viewers interested since the third season ended in March - and season four doesn't begin until March 08. WTF? A whole year off? You bastards! Of course, the third season ended with a cliffhanger, and they're making everyone wait a frackin' year to see the conclusion. But, if it takes them a year to figure out what they want to do with the season and it's even half as good as the previous seasons, it will still be the best show on television by a mile. I'm sure I'll talk more about Battlestar Galactica in the future, but for now I'd better stop, or I'll have to break this post up into a Part IIb for tomorrow. My best recommendation is to get out there and rent/buy a copy of season one and you'll be hooked by the time you're through the first half of the pilot episode. I can't even count how many people I've passed my copy of this series to and they always come back for more. That's right, I'm like a drug dealer - product of choice = Galactica. My best suggestion is, to please, watch it from the beginning - it will be much more enjoyable.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Post 50 - Part I

Note: I've chosen to break this up a little because it got a little lengthy. Part II will contain the non-sports related portion of this post.

Holy crap! This is the 50th post on this blog? It feels like I've only written, like, 47, maybe 48 posts... tops. My thanks are again extended to my loyal reader(s?) for continuing read these random ramblings.

After four straight days of being away from the lab, I think that I might be ready to do something related to work - it's a good thing because I have to hit the lab tomorrow. I managed to get a few things done around the apartment; wired my stereo system, unpacked the last few boxes - disposing of a bunch of worthless garbage, and watched a lot (A LOT) of TV. Here are my thoughts on several of the programs that I caught this weekend.

The Border War - The big KU/MU football game was Saturday night. The rivalry between Missouri and Kansas goes back to the pre-civil war era and is renewed every year in the form of college football. Typically, these two schools are rather mediocre and the only game that either team really gears up for is this one. This season, however, MU was #3 and KU was #2 (and undefeated) in the BCS rankings and 1 and 2 in the Big 12 North. Additionally, the game had been moved to Kansas City as a "neutral site" at Arrowhead Stadium and featured ESPN Gameday broadcasting from the stadium in the morning. I don't think that the game could be hyped any more than it was - and with due cause. Whichever team won would likely jump to the #1 ranking in the national polls and will face the Big 12 South winner for the Conference tournament and (assuming victory there) would play for the national title. Personally, I have no alliance to either of these teams. Having gone to Iowa State, which is also in the Big 12 North, I cannot, in good conscience, consider myself a fan of either school, even though both schools are within 100 miles of where I was raised. I chose to slightly favor KU for one reason - being an ISU fan, you are destined to despise Nebraska football. So, when KU scored 76 points against the Huskers they were granted instant respect from any Cyclone fan. Anything that adds to the Nebraska shame will put a smile on a Cyclone fan's face. The game itself was rather well played. Missouri dominated early and managed to hold on to secure the victory. The officials seemed determined to try to help KU back into the game, but MU was too tough and won 36-28. While I'm not really upset about KU losing, I do feel sorry for which ever buffet-style restaurant that KU coach Mangino decided to attend to drown his sorrows at the conclusion of the game. Anyway, MU then did move into the #1 ranking in the BCS and will face Oklahoma for the conference championship. That game, which is next Saturday (Dec 1) in San Antonio, is a rematch from earlier in the season where Oklahoma won 41-31. MU has their chance to avenge their only blemish on their season.

Chiefs/Raiders - What the hell are you doing, Herm? Seriously, what the hell are you doing? You call a timeout, then ask for a challenge that you had no chance of winning - which costs another timeout? You only get three timeouts in a half and you burned two without a second coming off of the game clock? What the hell are you doing? The Raiders are not a very good team, certainly not a team that should beat the Chiefs in KC. The running game for KC was impressive, possibly the best performance of the season - and it didn't feature a pro-bowl running back (LJ or Priest), but a rookie, Kolby Smith, making his first career start. He looked explosive but patient and made good cuts and finished with 150 yards and 2 TDs. He made a few mistakes (dropping screen passes), but that's too be expected and he certainly didn't cost them the game - that was all on the QB and the coaching staff. The passing game isn't looking good and Croyle appears lost - that again falls onto the coaching staff. Croyle clearly has the arm, but the coaches have to prep him better for games if they want to compete. The Chiefs aren't that far back in the standings, but the Chiefs' season is officially over, and I wouldn't be upset of Herm Edwards' term was over as well. I am a Chiefs fan and I will watch the remainder of the games this season, but that doesn't mean that I can't bitch about them. What the hell were you doing, Herm? Grrrr...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Vacation

I'm now into the second day of my vacation, and it's been great. I had my first Thanksgiving in the last decade that didn't include being in total discomfort because of forced over eating. Having just a single Thanksgiving dinner is a benefit of being single once again. I know many people that have to attend up to three different dinners on the same day. Pleasing all sets parents/family/friends on a single day can be painful on the stomach. However, there are sacrifices to be made to keep certain people apart from each other.

In the following image I am able to combine three things that I very much enjoy - technology (in that I'm posting the image online), photography and... pie! Please note that a nearly perfect ratio is present in the pie. If you can't tell, the layers are: Oreo crust, sliced bananas, banana pudding, chocolate pudding, whipped cream, shaved Hershey's chocolate and more sliced bananas. Mmmmm. Realistically, I just wanted to figure out how to upload images. Is there something better to post than an image of a pie?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Productivity in Bursts

Typically, there is a lot of waiting around during experiments so that I have time to read news, check the stock market, catch up on sports news, post here, etc. That was not the case during the first couple of days this week in the lab. I had another scheduled trip out to KU Tuesday, so Monday was all the prep work. There was enough to do that kept me on my feet the entire day, so productivity at work was not a problem. What I didn't expect, was for productivity to carry over into the evening. Now I have a stocked pantry (after a lengthy trip to the grocery store) and all of my books/DVDs unpacked and roughly organized. I dreaded making the first trip to the grocery store and I put it off as long as I could. It became a necessity when I was nominated to bring the dessert to the Thanksgiving dinner. For those of you wondering, I'm making my famous chocolate banana pie (I am choosing to refer to it as famous, only because it was requested by someone else, but I think that still counts. It is my favorite pie, so I don't need much of a reason to justify preparing it).

Sometimes I manage to impress myself with how much I am capable of getting done in one day. The ten hours in the lab completed nearly two entire days of work for a mere mortal. But then followed by dinner with the folks, grocery shopping and unpacking boxes. The boxes were somewhat of an afterthought - I had fallen asleep on the couch watching TV. The transition to sleeping in a bed didn't go as smoothly as anticipated, so I figured I should do something. All those boxes were already in the bedroom, why not start unloading them? Anyway, an hour later and I've got books and DVDs on the shelves and huge stack of empty boxes on the other side of the room - success!

Unfortunately, productive days, like this one, seem rather rare. I always get something done in any given day, but not like this. If every day was half as productive as this, I would be completely set at work, but also probably be half way into my grave. Productive bursts are nice when they happen, it would just be nice to transition into them without having to force motivation or be so stressed because of the mountain of tasks to complete. Maybe I enjoy being lazy a little too much. How can I call myself lazy after working "the streak"? It doesn't mean that those days were all productive - just look at my lab book - oh wait, it's way, way behind. I'm hoping for one productive burst to clean that and my lab bench up, then put away the rest of the stuff in the apartment, get my address changed on all of my bills, driver's license updated, take care of insurance stuff, banking, bills or any of the other hundred things that I need to finish/work on - oh yeah, some form of exercise would be nice also.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Yes, I took another day off! Mind you, the day off was a Saturday, but it still counts after "the streak". For all of you former Iowa Stater's that are no longer living in Ames, I can pass on the information that Ames is still there! The 18+ hour work day was well worth it to get to catch up with family and friends over the weekend. It's always nice to spend time with people that you don't get to see very often, the only down side is that it makes it much more difficult to leave... and then go back to work.

Every time I visit with my aunt and uncle, I am always motivated to get back in to options trading in the stock market. It would be nice to be less busy so that I could dedicate some time to something other than working in the lab. I find options trading enjoyable because you can get nearly instant gratification. Of course, you can get nearly instant devastation as well, but the risk involved is part of what makes it exciting. Ideally, you research what you are going to do so that you make the best decisions possible so that you end up going in to positions that are much more likely to go the correct direction. Maybe with the holiday coming up, I'll get a chance to do a little research. You did read that correctly, I'm actually going to take some more time off for the holiday - possibly even a four day weekend. What?

One more thing - chocolate covered walnuts are possibly the best thing I have ever tasted. Thank you Grandma!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Infamous 20-Hour Work Day

In graduate school, I once worked a 20-hour day, which I failed to accomplish last night... thankfully. Working a 20 hour day isn't necessarily the part of this story that is interesting. The day in question was about four years ago and my boss had asked me to change to a different project, one that had been tried by another graduate student (without success). The project involved isolating mitochondria from liver cells. To get the mitochondria, as you may have guessed, required me to have, in my possession, a fresh liver sample. Where might someone get a fresh liver sample? The answer: undergraduates. Well, actually, it's wasn't an undergrad liver, it was a pig liver obtained from the university meat lab. I had to go onto the "kill floor" and wait as the liver was extracted from the recently euthanized hog. No, the animal wasn't killed because of me, that was previously scheduled, but the livers are just disposed of, so these places don't mind giving away livers for research purposes.

I had no experience in working with any tissues prior to this and I had no idea what I was doing. I had a procedure from a research paper from 40 years ago as my guide and no one in my group could provide any guidance. Eventually, I plugged through the procedure to isolate the mitochondria and the initial testing to make sure that everything was OK before I headed home. This first isolation ended up taking 20 hours (7am to 3am the next morning). Here is where the humorous part of the story comes in. By the time that I was doing my last liver prep, I could do the same amount of work in about 4 hours (start at 8am and finish at noon). Experience makes all the difference. I was never particularly fond of doing this prep, but I only had to do the extraction once every six months. Slaughterhouses do not have a very friendly atmosphere and I wouldn't be upset if I never had to set foot in one again. I don't foresee any trips in the near future because I'm not working on a project that would require it. So, for the next year or so, I should be slaughterhouse free.

Completely random entertainment for the day - check out this video. It's an offshoot of the Mac/PC ads from TV, but this time it's a full length rap video (not starring the actors from the TV spots). It's quite humorous. Enjoy.

An Even Longer Day - Update Number 2

The day is finally over - 18.5 hours in total (at work, but I've been up for over 20 straight hours now). I will mention one hilarious side point before I head out for a couple hours of sleep. The ultrafuge almost did crap out on me tonight - within 15 minutes of me making a "joke" about it in the previous post. I finished the second of three runs on it, pulled out the rotor, then it made this crazy humming sound and shut itself off, then refused to come back on. I didn't even know it could turn itself off, but it did. After a few minutes of expletive laced comments directed at it, I managed to come up with an alternative method of completing my evenings tasks. For the hell of it, I tried to turn the ultrafuge back on right before I needed it for the third run (20 minutes later) and it was fine... as if nothing had happened earlier. I don't know what it's deal was, but it made the final run just fine, so whatever, I guess.
Anyway, it's time for some sleep. If I hurry, I might get home by 4 am. I think I might be a tad late in the morning, but it's probably justified. Good night!

An Even Longer Day - Update

I am now beginning hour number 17 for the day. Tiredness didn't really set in until about hour 15, so I'm actually doing quite well... and keeping sanity intact. A special thanks goes to for posting entire episodes of Chuck and Heroes. I had gotten a little bit behind the last couple weeks, but I'm managing to catch up on those two entertaining series in my down time. I may only have about 1 1/2 hours left... as long as the ultrafuge doesn't give me any unexpected vacuum problems (no one is expected to know what this means). I will probably fall short of my personal record of the 20 hour day back in grad school. Maybe I'll recount that day in tomorrow's post. But results are looking good tonight... so far. The long day continues. One more update will be on the way. Until then, back to Heroes!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Even Longer Day

I'm trying to get enough done this week so that I can take a trip back up to Ames to visit some friends and family. Unfortunately, to do that, I have to be far enough along in my work that I can get to the stopping point that makes the most sense. So... today has already been a long day, but it's not even close to done. It's been 11 hours in the lab and I'm about to start what would be equivalent to the next day's work. If I can plug through the work I need to finish tonight, I will get (as a reward) almost two more whole days away from the lab. What? Is that possible? Multiple days away from work in the same month?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Long Day

You know it's going to be a long day when you realize that you have to return to work after your "social" plans. I spent enough time today helping a colleague prep for a talk later in the week that it meant that I would have to come back to the lab to finish up my work after an evening at the pool hall. Tomorrow is another trip off campus so the work had to get done today. It's got to get done sometime, even if that means I'm in the lab until 1am.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chiefs' Rant

First, I have a quick extension from the previous post. I realized last night that I was missing one vital requirement for the new apartment... lighting. There are some provided fixtures in the apartment (entryway, kitchen, bathroom), but the living room and bedroom don't have anything. This did make setting up electronics and rearranging a little more challenging in those rooms after dark. I made due and did manage to get a lot done. So, on the list for today's trip to the store - lamps. Another day or two and I think that I'll be done putting stuff away... sweet!

And now... back to the regularly scheduled post -

Being a Chiefs' fan, I feel obligated to watch the games. Unfortunately, watching the Chiefs' this season is a little like sitting in the chair at the dentist. Just sitting there is unpleasant and constantly anticipating the worst is the norm. The Chiefs' are managing just barely over two touchdowns a game, which makes non-existent the best descriptor for the team's offense. I don't like seeing players get booed by their own fans, but QB Damon Huard probably deserves it. It's difficult to have much faith in a player that has incredible difficulty in completing screen passes - WTF, you're only throwing the ball around ten yards total to an uncovered running back. The fans have been begging to have second-year man Brodie Croyle take over the reins. He's been plugged by the team as being their future leader, so get him out there and give him a shot. Huard isn't getting the job done and the Arrowhead crowds are letting him know it. That kind of pressure has to get into his head and surely effects his game performances. Croyle has a strong arm and seems to know how to find his receivers. When Huard went down in the second half, some fans cheered, probably not because they wanted him to be injured (I'd like to think that the KC fans show more class than to cheer when one of their own gets hurt), but because it forces the coaching staff to make the decision to go to Croyle. Because he lacks experience in the pros, he is expected to make mistakes... and he did make a few, but turning the team over to Croyle will give the fans some hope and provide some insights into how good Croyle can be. If he is the future of this club, then let him prove it. Herm Edwards (Chiefs' head coach) is, reportedly, going to sleep on the decision to stick with Croyle for the next game. I fear that the fans will revolt if Edwards decides to go back to Huard, but the next game is on the road against the Colts. So... do you let your young QB get pounded into the ground by Indianapolis, or put Huard back out there and save Croyle for the next home game? Either way, I think the Chiefs have to make the transition to prevent the uprising of the fans. How can Edwards not turn it over to Croyle?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Move

In case anyone was wondering, I have survived the move and am now composing my first entry in my new abode. I am sitting in and surrounded by relative squalor and disarray, but eventually my belongings will find their homes and the apartment will be livable. After beginning the arrangement process following getting everything into the new place, I'm finding that I may actually have more space than I had anticipated. I think that it's going to be more comfortable than I had originally expected... a nice discovery. There's still few more trips to the local Target/Walmart to be made, and then I might manage to acquire everything that I need to survive a (relatively) solitary life in the big city. This is getting expensive... but it's been enjoyable, actually getting to make decisions as to how my own home will look: organization, layout of furniture, decorations, etc. It's all a new process for me (you don't have much to decide in a dorm room, then being married, I had little influence on these matters) but my opinion is the only one that matters now! HAHA! Of course, if it looks ridiculous, then only I am to blame - but I'm not going to let that happen.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 46... Or the Day I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Streak

Just kidding- today officially marks the final day of the streak! Hell *bleepin'* yeah! It was a ridiculously busy day today, but the reward is nice - positive results in the lab completely justify the day off tomorrow. That's right, the streak will end at 46 *expletive* days. Tomorrow, the beginning of the great move. I picked up my keys to the new place! The keychain that they gave me had the number for the building's limo service. How freakin' cool is that! They also gave me a free T-shirt with the building's monogram on it. Or... I can look at the shirt as "free"... and I payed 700 bucks for the T-shirt and got free rent for the partial month. Whatever is funnier is what I will go with - so free rent it is! Hey, I have expensive taste in clothes (not really). Well... it's off to start packing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Academia vs Industry

As an offshoot of yesterday's post, I will outline the different career paths that the typical post-PhD scientific researcher can take.

The Academia Route - The most obvious route for the fresh-out-of-grad-school research scientist to take is to continue in academia to attempt to become a professor, or boss. To become a boss, you must first do a series of post consisting of 1-3 different stops, usually at different institutions, each consisting of 1-3 years. During this time (earlier described as the indentured servitude state), the post doc will be working to get as many publications as possible in an attempt to prove that they are a productive scientist. Ideally, the final post doc position will be working for a boss that will allow the scientist to take the project being worked on with them to their new position as boss somewhere else. Getting a job as boss is typically extremely difficult unless the scientist is near the top of his field in production and has good pedigree (quality of institution degree was received from and post doc positions at highly respectable institutions). Some scientists will send applications to 50-100+ schools hoping for a handful of interviews and maybe a job offer. Once the status of principal investigator is received, they have a couple of years to be recognized and retain funding from an agency outside of the institution (like the National Institute of Health (NIH) or National Science Foundation (NSF)). During this time, the scientist will be working in the lab, usually with a small group of underlings (1-3), to get enough data to justify to the institution and the funding agencies that you are capable of running their own laboratory. If an outside source of funding is acquired, then the boss status is held and the scientist will be up for "tenure" within a few years. Once tenure is achieved, then the scientist can sit back and let the "underlings" do all or most of the work, and the size of the group will usually increase to 3-6 depending on the amount of funding received. The more funding, the larger the group and with that, the more work will have to be done to justify keeping the funding.

If boss status is not achieved, there are other routes within academia that can be taken. There's the research associate route, which is essentially a permanent post doc position. Salary for the research associate is usually considerably higher than a post doc, but less than the bosses receive. The post-post doc status scientist is also qualified to teach at the university level without doing research. Jobs of this nature are typically not long term and compensation for these positions is usually quite low.

The Industry Route - The alternate route to the academic route is the industry (or private sector) route. Typically, to get into an industry job, the fresh-from-grad-school PhD can try to break directly into working for a company, or begin the academic route and do a post doc at a university before converting to the private sector. Some companies offer post doc (or equivalent) positions, while others have "entry level" positions that have PhD requirements.
The private sector scientist will have similar deadlines and production requirements, but publication record does not define the quality of work produced, as in academia... meaning that one paper per year is considered good in industry, where one paper per year in academia implies that nothing is being accomplished. Job security is the main concern in industry positions. In academia, once tenure has been reached, it is nearly impossible to be forced from the institution until retirement (barring scandal or complete lack of funding - both of which do occur). Biotech companies can be purchased and sold in the blink of an eye, and scientists can be forced out with little notice. What is the one thing that can make up for lower job security? That's right... money. Industry jobs can pay up to 2-3 times the academic job, and typically the stress level is much lower. Many industry jobs are similar to a non science job in that the schedules may be more like 9-5, 5 days a week, with potential to take vacations and have a "life", whereas the academic job may take 10+ hours per day, 6-7 days a week with "vacation days" (as described yesterday). Getting in to the industry positions can be tricky as most require "experience" and a PhD. Where do you get experience if you just got your degree? Working suck ass jobs and having no life for an unknown amount of time just might do it. Pay your dues and hope that you can get rewarded down the road. Once the industry job is under wraps, just hold on as long as you can... make your money, then get out.

Which type of job would I prefer to have? Hmmm... That doesn't take much thought, does it?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


As mentioned in Monday's post, I had originally planned to talk about TV today, however, something else will take it's place. The post today was inspired by an innocent question from an avid (avid should most likely be replaced with "obligated", but I like the idea of having avid readers... I find avid more amusing) reader of this blog. It is most likely true, that the non academic researcher is unaware of the general rules that academic researcher are expected to adhere to. I am willing to pass this information on to the general public in an effort so that people of my ilk will be recognized for their "diligent" work.

In academic research science there is an interesting quandary, which I will present here. As a short introduction, I will provide a few quick definitions to make things easier. In academic research there are several classes of individuals, all of which abide by a slightly different set rules and regulations.

Bosses - Also referred to as P.I.'s (principal investigator), the boss is the lead scientist that provide the funding for all of the "underlings" and serve as the mentor in the "group". The boss oversees the work done by the "group" and writes the grants used for acquiring funding. The boss also writes or at least rewrites the work presented for publication. An established boss, does no actual lab work and may not even know how most work is accomplished.

Group - Contains all the "underlings" and the boss. The typical group size is generally comprised of one boss and 3-6 "underlings".

Underlings - The workers that do all of the laboratory research and a considerable amount of the academic writing, with the exception of the grant proposal(s). All work is overseen by (and harshly criticized), by the boss. The "underlings" are made up of (in descending order in the food chain): Post docs, grad students, undergrads. Some groups may have alternative members, such as the "lab tech" that can fall above or below the post doc position depending on the degree that they have received (i.e. if lab tech has a master's degree, the post doc outranks the tech, but a tech with a PhD, could rank equal to, above or below the post doc position depending on how long they have been in the group). Other positions can be present in this category depending on the amount/difficulty of the work being performed within the group.

Post docs - (My current rank) Should be the most productive members of the group. They have already received their PhD, but are, generally, shortly out of school and still accustomed to the graduate student life - i.e. they are grad students that don't have classes, but are expected to work long hours. Post docs are paid in a similar manner to graduate students with one exception - grad students receive a stipend and their tuition is paid to the school by the boss, while post docs, basically, have the same base salary, but the tuition money is paid to them. Realistically, the boss is receiving a highly trained graduate student, without having to pay any more out of pocket than having a first year graduate student. Generally, post docs are considered to be extremely underpaid and are, more or less, in a state of indentured servitude, paying their dues until they get a real job. Generally, post docs stay for 1-3 years then move on to another post doc, or begin an actual career as a boss in another institution if they have a good enough publication record.

Graduate students - Working to receive a PhD. Grad students are generally doing work that the boss assigns for the first couple of years, then are allowed to expand (under tight supervision) during their final years. Grad students, like post docs, are generally overworked and underpaid. The length of term for grad students is generally 3-7 years depending on the degree they entered with (those coming in with a Master's degree could leave in as few as three years, but could take longer, those coming in with Bachelor's degrees will take 5-7 years to finish depending on motivation and indispensability - the better the student, the longer the boss will want to keep the student).

Undergrads - The bottom rung of the ladder. Typically, the undergrad does what the others in the group tell them to do... and do that poorly. Undergrads take a fair amount of time to train and tend to leave almost immediately after becoming useful. Depending on the amount of training, the undergrad can do anything from washing dishes, to providing basic prep work for other graduate students/post docs in the "group", or have their own independent project. Those with independent projects typically go on to graduate school sometimes in the same labs they worked in as undergrads. Those that leave and get real jobs are considered smarter than their peers, even though they will leave with a, technically, lower degree (i.e. they got out while they still could)

The question that was eluded to earlier is:
"Can I take a vacation?"

The answer:
The theoretical answer - yes, I receive what are referred to as "vacation days", as well as "sick days" and something called "personal days". The general public receives vacation days, while academic subordinates or, underlings, receive "vacation days". Vacation days and "vacation days" however, differ in one regard, which will be explained in the next section.

The actual answer - not really, if things were going smoothly, then an underling could (potentially) get away for a few days, but things are not, so... no. Realistically, things are never truly going smoothly for anyone... ever. So, underlings can never justify a true vacation. This the explanation of "vacation days" versus vacation days. Yes, underlings receive the "days" but they aren't really allowed to use them. The exception, of course, is for the bosses, who can take and use their vacation whenever they please. During this time, the underlings are expected to work even harder in their absence. This, of course, does not happen.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Worn out

What the hell? About half way through my work day, it felt like I got hit by a truck. Well, not really like I got hit by a truck, but one minute I felt fine, then the next it was like I could barely move. It was like my brain was filled with goo and my eyes were extremely heavy and yawning was uncontrollable. I believe that the condition is called... the doldrums. I thought my motivation level was low before, but I managed to break through that barrier with ease. Eventually, I figured out that it was mostly food (or lack thereof) related, but the motivation level stayed pretty low throughout the rest of the day. I'm pretty sure that as this work streak has continued, that the quality of writing on this blog has been declining. Creativity is fleeting and it feels like I'm grasping for things to write about. So until the streak ends, I'll probably be blabbing on about things like TV and being tired at work. Blah, blah, blah blah blah. Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, November 2, 2007


What are Fridays again? Aren't they supposed to be a good thing? I don't seem to quite remember. Right now, it pretty much just means its the last day of the week that I have interactions with my co-workers before the building gets extremely quiet. Here is an amusing conversation that I just had with a co-worker.

Co-worker: "You are going to go home this weekend, right?"
My first thought: "What's a weekend? I haven't actually had one in the last five weeks, why would this be different?"
What I actually said: "I'm not actually living here, I do go home at night. But I do have to come in to do a couple things on the weekend."
I continued: "I'm taking a couple days off next week to move."
Co-worker's reply: "That's a day off... moving?"
My reply: "It's a day off from here."

Wow, this is getting pretty sad... moving is a day off. Pretty pathetic.

On a different note, I did find this video clip amusing. Does Larry King actually know anything about his guests or does he just wing everything at this point. I probably would if I had King's job as long has he has. Does anyone even watch that show anymore?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 39 - Randomness

I have reached day 39 in the consecutive days worked streak, and let me say, it's getting old... and tiring. I didn't post anything yesterday because I couldn't come up with anything coherent to talk about. Today, I still don't have anything coherent to talk about, but I feel the need to write something, or eventually, the few people that are keeping up with this site, will probably stop looking in for updates, and I don't want that to happen. So, here's a couple random musings, and then I'll drop my "big news" that I mentioned a couple days ago.

I found it amusing to learn that yesterday, one local radio station has already begun it's 24 hour Christmas music theme. Doesn't it seem a little bit early to start that? I do actually like holiday music, but October seems a tad early to get "into the mood" for holiday cheer. I don't see how anyone can really get geared up for the actual event of Christmas if the buildup comes earlier and earlier every year. Christmas itself seems to lose much of its impact. I foresee that, eventually, radio stations will just have year round, non-stop holiday music. What happened to the times when the Christmas season didn't begin until after Thanksgiving? Now we're supposed to be getting excited before Halloween? When will the madness end?

I'm a big fan of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, and I've been watching them religiously for several years now. When Stephen Colbert announced a couple weeks ago that he was going to run for president (article), I thought that it was a great idea. Realistically, he's not really running for president, he just wanted to put his name on the ballot in his home state of South Carolina, with the goal of getting one delegate at the national convention. Colbert's plan was to run on both the republican and democratic tickets to help meet his goal. A national poll actually placed Colbert above of several "legitimate" candidates (Kucinich/Paul). When the deadline for filing passed this week, Colbert apparently didn't find the $35,000 filing fee required for the republican ticket worthwhile, so he just filed with the democratic party. Unfortunately, the S. Carolina dems didn't find him to be a "serious" candidate and are going to leave him off the ballot, effectively ending his "presidential bid". I find this to be incredibly disappointing, because the whole process is being taken too seriously. How important is the South Carolina primary anyway? As with the Christmas season starting too early, the political run up for the next election (still more than one year away) has already gotten extremely tiring. I'm already sick of all the candidates, now I'm supposed to get excited to vote in a primary in a couple months, then stay excited to vote in the election next November? Geez, no wonder people don't vote in this country. How many billion dollars is this costing America? WTF? The buildup for the 2012 election is probably starting next month... Maybe I should go ahead and get ready for that.

OK, here's the big news that I've been talking about - I'm moving into downtown KC next weekend. That's right, I'm going to be one of those movers and shakers that live in a giant apartment building right in the heart of the revitalized KC downtown district. I said that things were going to be interesting... well, if this doesn't end up being interesting for me, then I don't know what will. Plus, it cuts my commute down to work by about half - and it pretty much guarantees that my consecutive days worked streak will end. I'm taking a day next week to take care of stuff, yeah, you read that correctly. The streak will end!