The Plight of the Post-Doc


Moving Day (for the blog)

Hello, lovely readers. In case you haven't caught the news on twitter or LabSpaces, Fumbling Towards Tenure Track is moving, for real. Please come visit me in my new home,

See you there!


11th hour pre-interview freak-out

My first faculty interview is this week, and frankly, I'm losing my junk a little bit. I'm super excited and I'm sure it will be fun, but I'm also terrified of doing something horribly gauche, insulting someone, or looking stupid in general. I've been poring over the very excellent advice on such matters from Physioprof, DrDrA, and Gerty-Z (and their commenters), but I still have a bunch questions. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Is it bad form to ask about the university city? I mean, everyone I'm talking to has chosen to live there, so would they be irked if I asked about quality of life/safety stuff?

2. I'm meeting the Dean. What does he want to talk about?

3. What do the students (grad) want to talk about?

4. Will people not take my relationship seriously because J and I are not married?

5. I'm doing a little reading about the research of each person on my itinerary, but will they expect me to be familiar with their work? How familiar?

6. What do I NEED to ask?

7. Anyone have any experience with those 5 hour energy shot thingies? Yay or Nay?

8. I seem to be coming down with a cold.

Hmm...there are probably more. I'll update as they occur to me. Any and all wisdom is much appreciated!


Cross-posted from LabSpaces.

Wow, you guys. Just wow.  In all my wildest dreams I never imagined this campaign would be so successful! But after nearly a month, LabSpaces is in 4th place in the Science Bloggers for Students Challenge, and it's all because of you! Our pet project, "Oh! Rats!" got fully funded several weeks ago, which means that I'm delivering on my promise to you--an original cocktail inspired by and named after a donor who gave through my Giving Page, and a video of me making said cocktail.
The winner was chosen randomly by a party blind to the identity of those eligible, and then I experimented a bit until I felt I'd come up with a concoction that really channeled the spirit of this winner. The video was made this afternoon with the help of some lovely friends and several rounds of mimosas.
Now, please forgive the low sound quality, as we only had a regular camera's video recorder to work with, plus it was my first time editing a video of any kind, so some of the cuts may be, shall we say, less than smooth. Also there's sort of a gratuitous ass shot because I forgot to get a glass out before starting, but hopefully that won't be too painful. Oh and yes, there are costume changes. I couldn't help myself.
And now.....the Cocktail Contest Winner!

Thanks again to everyone who donated! Cocktail or not, you all helped kids get a better education, and that is just awesome.


Bribing you for!

Hey there hangers-on to my blogger site!  On the off chance you haven't heard, this month science bloggers across the world are participating in, an amazing organization that helps kids in impoverished communities get much needed school supplies for their classrooms. It's called DonorsChoose because you, the donor, get to pick which project you'd like to help fund!

Because I really want a certain rat-focused project to get funded, I'm offering a little incentive to help motivate you to go to my Giving Page and help these kids.  Below is a description, as I posted yesterday on my LabSpaces blog. Please give to Oh Rats!!

We're getting serious here, folks. The Science Bloggers for Students Challenge is in full swing, and LabSpaces is on board, you know what I'm saying? So far, thirteen of us have set up Giving Pages, which you can view all together on our main page here.
While we're doing this as a collective and are of course happy as long as you donate at all, it's only natural that a little of that independent competitive spirit shows itself in situations like this. And so it should come as no surprise, then, that we've resorted to some...creative strategies. To be specific, we're bribing you.
Biochem Belle is offering a plush molecule to one lucky donor should her Giving Page reach $350.  And every time her donations made through any LS blogger's page reach a multiple of $500, Disgruntled Julie will bake cookies for someone. Geeka will post an embarrassing picture of herself every time one of her projects gets funded. Gerty-Z will buy an overpriced mocha (but not syphilis) for a few random donors through her page regardless of total donations. And Tideliar, well...let's just say his bribe is that if you donate, he won't demonstrate his very scary Muy Thai skills.
So what do I have for you?
Well, there is only one other thing I geek out about besides science, and that thing is cocktails. May I introduce you to my home bar?

OK, here's the deal:  one of my projects--which is on many of our Giving Pages--is called Oh Rats! and it's going to expire in 14 days. This project will help students learn about anatomy through hands-on experience--dissecting rats, of course!  Now, within the genre of science I am a real anatomy nerd, so I am way into this project. As of tonight they're short almost $650, so they really need your help! What I am offering is this:
If Oh Rats! reaches its goal in time, I will create and name a cocktail in honor of someone who donates through my page. Can you imagine? Your very own cocktail! Not only that, but I will post a video of myself (neck down, I'm afraid--gotta maintain some semblance of pseudonymity) demonstrating how to make this cocktail, so you can all make it for yourselves at home. See? EVERYBODY WINS.
Awesome, right? I mean, who wouldn't want this? Please go help Mrs. T and the Oh Rats! gang! If you go through my Giving Page (see widget to your right), it's the 4th project. Thank you thank you thank you!!!


This one's for the ladies

The ladies of twitter, that is!* I was chatting earlier this evening with the lovely @Geeka, @biochembelle, @Gerty-Z, @enniscath, @modernscientist, and @_modscientist_ (DIFFERENT PEOPLE!) about the beauty that is gin.

I love gin. Now, gin is not something whose taste appeals to everyone right away--it's somewhat acquired, and it needs to be done right. But when it is done right, it adds a dimension to cocktails to which no vodka could ever come close.  With the obvious exception of the bloody mary, vodka does not touch Dr. Becca's lips. It does not please me.

Anyway, all that ginny tweeting made me thirsty, and so I decided to make one of my absolute favorite gin cocktails--the Archangel. Fittingly, the Archangel was invented by one of my favorite bartenders in all the city, Richie Boccato--formerly of Milk & Honey, currently proprietor of Dutch Kills and Painkiller. This man is quality through and through.

The Archangel is so elegant and so delicious, there is almost no pre-dinner cocktail I prefer.  It is light and crisp and only a tiny bit sweet, and it only contains alcohol, so to those of you who are used to taking your gin with 3 parts tonic, watch out.

You will need the following:

a few slices of cucumber (seedless is best)
lemon twist

Aperol is an aperitif that's similar to Campari, but far less bitter and less alcoholic. It is a more delicate Campari, which is important since we're dealing with delicate flavors here.  Some of you might scoff at my choice of gin here, but I actually like the taste of Beefeater better than that of Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire--it's cleaner. Hendrick's is for special occasions and martinis only, until I am rich.

So. Take your pint glass and put the cucumbers in.  Give them a couple of punches with a muddler or spoon, but don't pulverize them.  You just want to...loosen them up a little.  Put in a ton of ice, and then add 2.5 oz gin and 1 oz Aperol.  There should be so much ice that it sticks up above the level of the liquid, comme ça:

I have no idea why this isn't centering like it's supposed to. 

Stick in a long spoon, let it all sit for a minute, and then stir for at least another minute. OK, 30 seconds should be fine. You want it to be really cold, though!

Twist your lemon twist so that the oils start to ooze out of the skin. Drop it in the martini glass, and strain the contents of the pint glass on top of that.  When you look closely, you should be able to see the lemon oil floating on the surface. Enjoy!!!

Oh, and feel free to munch on the gin-and-Aperol-soaked cucumbers from your pint glass.  They're delicious!!

*This is also for Genomic Repairman, who had a shitty day.


Civic Duty, Shmivic Duty! (part 1)

 JURY DUTY.  Is there anything more annoying, when taken out of context? I mean, I got stuff to do! Important experiments, etc!! I’ll be honest—when the summons arrived in my snail mail I was annoyed, but also a little curious, never having served before except for once in grad school where we were let go after lunch because there were no cases.  Many of my friends in NY have been called for jury but only one has ever sat on a case, so I figured this would be an easy day of hanging out at the courthouse, after which I’d be let go, free of civic responsibilities for the next 8 years.  I emailed my boss that I’d be missing lab meeting but would most likely be in the next day, and headed to downtown Brooklyn.

The jury holding area is like a giant airport terminal gate, but without the stinky airplane smell or screaming infants.  Unlike an airport terminal, the wi-fi was free, so I popped open the MacBook and settled in for a little internetting.  People were sleepy and disgruntled, so to pep us up we were shown an informative video about how awesome the jury system is.  As I’m sure you’re all well aware, one effective technique in demonstrating a thing’s awesomeness is to contrast that thing with something that is not awesome.  Accordingly, our video began with a re-enactment of trial-by-drowning. 

I’m not even kidding—I’m sitting there at 8:30 in the morning watching actors dressed in rags, their faces all dirty and toothless and whatnot, drag another dirty, toothless, rag-dressed actor down to a lake, bind his hands and feet, and toss him in.  Just how I like to start my day! Then there was a man-on-the-street sort of thing in which we heard sound bites from people who were all “Boo, I hate jury duty. Such a nuisance, why me, etc!” and then Diane Sawyer came on and explained why jury duty was so important, and then we had more man-on-the-street interviews with people who were really pleased about jury duty.  It’s what makes America great, you see!

Several hours later, they started calling names for a case.  My ears pricked up, my heart started pounding, and my internal monologue went something along the lines of don’tpickmedon’tpickmedon’tpickmedon’tpickme until I heard the dreaded words, “Dr Becca.”  I let out an audible sigh, gathered my things, and joined the parade to the courtroom.

Inside, we were given the opportunity to ask the judge to be excused. Since I wasn’t smack dab in the middle of a big experiment, I didn’t feel right begging out, so I stayed seated. Out of about 50 of us, maybe 15 or so were excused from there. The rest of us were introduced to the attorneys and defendant, whom we learned was accused of a burglary. Criminal case FTW!!  We then each had to answer a string of questions, which included “Have you or has anyone in your family been the victim of a crime?” “Are any of your relatives or close friends police officers?” and which ended with “are you capable of being an impartial juror?”

Ladies and Gentlemen of my readership, you would not believe what a bunch of WHINY-ASS BITCHES your fellow citizens are.  I can’t even tell you how many people claimed not to be able to be impartial because their fucking iPod had been stolen from a bar or wherever in 2003. They sucked, and the judge looked like she saw right through their pansy lies, but there was nothing she could do. If you say you can’t be impartial, you’re excused, the end.  Interestingly, the more I listened to everyone and their pathetic attempts to get out of jury duty, the more I felt compelled to actually do my duty.  

And so when it was my turn, I responded with the honest truth about my crime-free and non-police-knowing existence (so sheltered!). Naturally, then, I made it to the top twenty-two.  The attorneys then pressed us on some of our possible biases: Would any of us find it impossible to find a defendant guilty without DNA or fingerprint evidence?  Do we think it’s possible for a police officer to lie on the stand?  Do we think a police officer is more likely than other people to lie on the stand?  There was amazingly someone who said no, they didn’t think it was possible for a police officer to lie, and I don’t think they were just saying it to get out, either. All kinds, I tell you!

After a quick break, we were called back in to hear the big news. Of the 22 of us remaining, only 9 were chosen for the jury, including…yours truly! Picky attorneys, man. Since they were 3 jurors + 3 alternates short, the trial wouldn’t start until the next afternoon, when they’d had a chance in the morning to select the rest of the group.  Finally we were dismissed, and I walked home, thinking, well…I guess here we go!


Write place, wrong time*

Already posted this over on LabSpaces, but y'all seem to keep stopping by here, so I'll oblige!

Yesterday was my first day back to the gym after my vacation, aka Lobster Week (like Shark Week, but with eating them!), and boy did it bring the pain. Not just because my Ass & Abs class (yes, it is actually called that) teacher is completely evil--it was so crowded! We were packed in like sardines and I had to use the yucky weights that make your hands smell all metally. Blech. As I was wondering why the class had seemingly doubled in size since the last time I was there, it hit me--the undergrads were back.

Now, don't get me wrong--undergrads are adorable. I hope to teach them someday! But what what their return signifies, other than the end of summer and less room to bust out my moves in hip-hop dance class, is the loss of my favorite writing spot. I wrote two grants and one paper this summer, and I did my best work in the evenings from a bustling coffee shop near one of New York's fine institutions. In the summer it's by no means empty--in fact, it's the quick pace and energy that I think keeps me alert and engaged with what I'm doing. But during the school year this place is an absolute zoo. People in every nook and cranny, on each other's laps, garbage piling up...we're talking fire code violations, here. And as a wise poet once said, I can't go for that (no can do).

Everyone has different environments in which they like to write. Some need complete isolation and quiet, so they lock themselves in their offices with some food rations, a gallon of coffee, and a roll of duct tape (hey, you never know), emerging a week later with a full beard and polished manuscript. Others might see writing as an opportunity to stay at home and not get dressed. Liberating, isn't it?

Well. I don't have an office. I have a desk in one of those giant lab spaces (hey!!!) with bay after bay of bench-desk combos. And while I love all the camaraderie and whatnot that goes along with being able to talk to my lab mates even if they are 25 feet away, I cannot get any real writing done there. It is impossible, because there is just too much 
fun being hadinteractive science going on. I do sometimes work from home if I don't have anything I absolutely need to do in lab, but it's not always that productive--the cats are all over my papers, I get distracted by things that need cleaning, and I spend way too much time playing Are You Lunch?

I like coffee shops. I wrote my entire thesis in a coffee shop in my grad school town, and it was awesome. Every day for an entire month I did nothing but drink coffee, eat bagels and cookies (I have yet to meet the person whose thesis-writing experience was not a complete carb-fest), and write. When I go to a coffee shop to write, I am not distracted, because that's the coffee shop's sole purpose. Places like lab or my apartment have lots of other purposes, which makes it hard to focus. But when I'm in my favorite coffee shop, my brain is like, 
OK, this is why we're here, and I totally lock in.

Between job applications, another grant, and probably a paper revision (it's currently under review), I have lots of writing to do in the coming months. So I have to find a new favorite coffee shop, boo. You'd be surprised how hard it is in NYC to find the perfect combination of good coffee, free wi-fi, decent music, and ample tables for working, so if my readers have any suggestions, by all means hit those comments! In the meantime, I'm working from home today, and it's almost time for Are You Lunch?

*As you might imagine, I thought long and hard about which write/right pun I'd use for the title of this post. I could have gone with the obvious, "The Write Stuff," or "The Write Moves," or abandoned that and gone with a more highbrow reference to "A Room of One's Own." In the end, "Write place, wrong time" seemed to fit the best, as I'm discussing how it is the WRONG TIME of the year to WRITE in my favorite PLACE.