Archive for: August, 2015

quote of the day - adversity edition

Aug 18 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Adversity is the state in which a man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free from admirers then. - Samuel Johnson

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Advice on getting an extra 'boost'

Aug 18 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Someone in the blogosphere wrote to me to express disappointment about being favored for something because "she's the woman applying".

The caveat before I start: I am only dealing with the woman/gender aspect, but this certainly applies to people of color. I am not a person of color, and if some of this is useful to POC, I am glad. But I am not going to pretend that I have the background to write to people of color on this issue.

I know my blogmom Isis dealt with this problem, and dealt with it well. She lives at the corner of intersectionality and hilarity and far more wise than I about these things. But I can't find her post. So I'm going to paraphrase her.

1. Isis the Scientist: for every "extra" door opened for you, there have been dozens that were slammed.
2. Bette Midler: Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. - Laugh all the way to the <insert well deserved and earned Good Thing> 🙂


The popular view of Isis.


How I think of Bette Midler.

The world is not a fair place. And its a hugely random place. Lots of times the dice are loaded against you. More often they just roll against you. In a perfect, fair world, no one would get benefit or penalization for things irrelevant to the position under consideration (race, gender, gender identity, religion, color, shoe size, and well, looks... I maintain that "ugly" women face huge discrimination, where "ugly" and "beauty" get defined by often-male-dominated-societal standards - but that's another post).

As women, we often see the glass as nearly empty and we see it as our own fault. When good things happen we clutch at our impostor syndrome. Nothing good that comes our way is because of who we are and that when we don't get something its because we just weren't good enough, and that the (often) man making the decision is smarter than us. I've written some about this in the past here and here.

I maintain that we are not so good at taking a step back and evaluating things dispassionately - without passion - for ourselves, in our own heads. [insert small generational thought here: I have heard many "olders" say that this is not true of todays "youngers" who see themselves as entitled. This may be true of some, but I've worked with enough young women now to know that the this issue is still there across the generations]

Take my friend/colleague's disappointment. Maybe it is simply that all candidates are equal or near equal and that having a woman get this thing is an important signal to the rest of the world. Why be disappointed? You have earned this. Maybe my friend isn't quite as good in some ways. But so what? Would the person be supporting her if the person thought she was going to be a disaster? People are not ceteris paribis experiments. My friend has these strengths to bring to the table, and the other guy has other strengths. How you rank those strengths is difficult; its not a temperature on a thermometer. It may be impossible to rank. And maybe its so important to have a different looking face at the table that the rest of the criteria sink below importance.

My bottom lines, and I have several are: 1) if you think you're good enough to do the job, hang onto that. 2) other people will weigh other criteria for decisions. get over it. 3) Sometimes its fine to accept a boost. You don't always have to work twice as hard to get half as far.


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I have a new best friend

Aug 17 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I am writing yet another proposal. It is a combination of current research interests, but in a different and more difficult model than I am the one I am using right now. This new model will let me address new questions. It will let me sneak some very interesting basic research (fundamental systems development) into questions that have high clinical significance. I published on this model 15 years ago. But the world has changed, and I need more justification for The Model. The significance is there, solid, and so is innovation (this model in this field). But its a tricky model, they are difficult and fragile patients in the human clinical realm, and what was acceptable 15 years ago might now fly today.

So, I went to the literature and discover that other people have been using The Model big time for the last five years. They are  answering other questions, physiology of other systems, but still using the model. Their 2013 and 2014 and 2015 papers are perfect for my justification. They have made The Model work. They have developed the detailed justification and mapping onto human clinical issues. I am golden.

So, to nail things down, I write to this guy. I send him my SA's and a couple of papers. I say "do you want to be a consultant on this proposal?". This is important grantsmanship, pay attention. 10 years ago it would have been sufficient to cite him (maybe, but maybe not). Now, for sure, I do not want to leave even a sliver of doubt that I can do this. Yes, I did it a while ago. But having one of the world's experts on The Model helping me will make a difference.

But! More! He had lots of incredibly good and insightful (not inciteful, and I wish that was a word) comments on my SA's.  He's already improved the proposal. He invited me to come see his operation with The Model (too bad its >10hr drive, or I'd be on my way today). I will go, eventually.

We've been email chatting about our labs and how we run them, and we are on the same page. Despite difficulties, he runs a small operation. As do I, he does "animal call" at hours that are weird for young people and difficult for olders. He has a few trainees, and hires staff to help with animal care. We talked about fostering excellence is easier with a small group. We do not go to the same meetings, as there is no meeting for The Model, and we work in different systems. But there is huge potential for synthesis - provided I can get funded. Provided I can get data. Its all there in the future waiting. This is why I love science. I am so excited.

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Why I don't trust/like/support Carly Fiorina

Aug 14 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

If her anti-vax nonsense isn't enough to make you question Carly Fiorina, her lying ought to.

"When in doubt, it is always the parent's choice," Fiorina said during a town hall in an agricultural building in rural Iowa on Thursday evening. "When in doubt, it must always be the parent's choice."

But it's ok to pour billions into defense, because that's about all of us?

Here is something she said (about "On abortion and people accusing her of “extreme” views") [my bold emphasis]

This is about the character of our nation (on the Planned Parenthood videos). Their extreme position (Hillary Clinton’s and the left), is that it’s not a life until it leaves the hospital. It’s not a life until it leaves the hospitals.

It is a web of falsehoods designed to protect the harvesting of babies body-parts.

I went looking for the original quote. It is not from Hillary Clinton. Its from Barbara Boxer from a1996 debate she had with Rick Santorum on the subject of late term abortions.

“I think when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born … the baby belongs to your family and has all the rights.”

The right has consistently tried to show that Boxer would be "ok with killing babies". (I don't need to get a link to that one, just google Barbara Boxer, abortion and babies, and you will get 1000's of rabid hits).

I do not care where you stand on abortion or Planned Parenthood (or the value of preventing abortion by supplying birth control), but I have not seen anywhere or heard anyone EVER say "its not life till it leaves the hospital".

Carly Fiorina thinks that the majority of Americans share her view. I hate politicians.




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From the Folder of Good Things

Aug 14 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

One of the things I've done, that I think useful, is kept a Folder of Good Things. These include thank you notes from students or trainees, my first grant score (the best I ever got), a really good paper review ("I have nothing to say as this paper is wonderful and should be published as is"), etc. Keeping this folder has kept me sane.

Here is one of mine from before. It was left on my car, one morning. I know who left it, and it came at a time I needed it. This  is going out to a secret-friend of mine. She may or may not know she needs it. She may not even read this. But it is here, for her:

secret admier


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quotes of the day - two from Mark Twain

Aug 13 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain


"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." Mark Twain


'Nuf said. The hell with the fuckers.

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Art and the lifting of the spirits

Aug 12 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I lived in Australia for two years. I managed a sabbatical and a fellowship to be there. It was transformative for me in many ways. I was mourning a failed relationship that I had thought would be forever. I was stymied in my work, and felt like I was walking through mental sludge to do science. I felt I had no friends and had romanticized how marvelous grad school/postdoc had been (which in retrospect seems off-base). I went  to there, and did field work and made friends and became whole.

One of the things I did when I was first there was buy a piece of art. I had fallen in love with Aboriginal art. A colleague had a wife who was an artist and a docent at the Museum of Art. They took time to show me things and explain. They introduced me to an art dealer/gallery that was committed to supporting the artists. The woman who runs it is amazing and wonderful and we became friends. So, I spent real money and  bought something by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri  similar to the image on the left.





Since then I've returned to Australia many times. Each time I've tried to buy a piece of art that speaks to me. I have a picture from Emily Kame Kngwarreye.  She didn't start painting until she was nearly 80. That looks something like this one. Except of course, none of these really carry the emotion of what the real picture looks like.  I have bought a few sculptures and other pieces. The red picture is by Shane Pickett. I have a blue one he did.



I cannot begin to describe the how and why this work makes me happy.

So I read this post this morning on enjoying art. The sculptures in this piece did not speak to me. But that's ok, with me and with the author. Some of the quotes from it are wonderful and convey the author's view far better than I can paraphrase:

Let it move you and give you something to reflect on.  Purchase only the art that you will look forward to seeing every morning when you open your eyes or when you return home after a long day at work.


... [spend] less time worrying about how much you know about art and more time finding art that makes you happy.

and finally:

Don’t settle for art that doesn’t lift your soul.

The same, by the way, could be said of the science you do.

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That's the way it goes

Aug 11 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

We are having lots of experimental problems. Equipment failure. Animal issues. Wonky cables.

But... the peeps in the lab are coming through like champs, from tech through postdoc to medical student fellows.

As for me, I'm frustrated, but drinking coffee. Lots of coffee.


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quote of the day - predestination version

Aug 10 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

“I have noticed that even those who assert that everything is predestined and that we can change nothing about it still look both ways before they cross the street”  - Stephen Hawking


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Aug 07 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Something a friend shared with me:


I don't know that I think teaching is the greatest art, but it certainly is one. And, as is true of most arts, visual, performing and otherwise, it goes through phases and fads and styles. Some of these differences are esthetic and not necessarily able to be ranked. Is Impressionism better than Cubism? Now? But, cramming 10 kids of different ages into a too-small room, with slates and bad chalk, and making them only memorize the same thing irrespective of skill level is probably not as good as other options.

When I started it was all about "imparting information" and making students "as smart as possible". Things have changed. I do remember when the "new pedagogy" started, I instituted some small group/peer interactions in a human embryology course I was teaching. I had several individual and sets of students (class was about 60) come to me and say "we do not care what our peers have to say, we only want you to give us more facts and information". Sigh. I worked at it.

I now teach in a medical school. We have pretty rigid standards about what to teach, as a function of board exams. But slides & strategies that I had used for years are not acceptable. I had always thought that students learned better when they actually wrote things down as well as heard and read them. But, my reviews have always turned up a few "Dr. Theron expects us to write a lot and its difficult to do so accurately".  Of late, they have turned into "Dr. Theron expects us to take notes in her lecture, and I don't think I should have to". So I am busy changing my lectures. I give up on this. Standards are changing. Art moves on. Me too.

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