Monday, January 23, 2012

Twitter me up

I finally did it. I joined Twitter. I decided that if I want to be a journalist, I should be familiar with common social media outlets. Join me in another potential time sink! :P

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Breakfast of Monkeys

I've been in a rut with breakfast lately. It's a really tasty rut involving oatmeal, chocolate, peanut butter, and bananas. I call it Monkey Oatmeal (or Chunky Monkey if you use chunky peanut butter) in honor of Not Licked Yet's sundae. If you're ever in Door County, Wisconsin, pay them a visit. It's well worth it on a hot summer evening!

Anyhow, here's how I make my Monkey Oatmeal:
1/2 cup quick oats
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp sweetener of choice
dash of salt
pinch of vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all those together and add perhaps a cup of hot water (or enough for whatever texture you like). I microwave mine for 30 seconds and add a little more water to make it extra creamy. Then...

1 Tbsp peanut butter
1 sliced banana

Mix these into the chocolate oatmeal and enjoy!
Mmm, chocolately Monkey Oatmeal goodness!

Let me know what you think. I have a few more of these up my sleeve.

Do you have a favorite breakfast item or recipe?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is grad school worth it?

Recent bit of conversation:
Me: Aw, crap.
J-man: What?
Me: I've been in college for nine years. I'm in 21st grade.
Yep, that's the size of it. Ten years ago I my highest academic aspiration was to go to the best state university my state had to offer. Now I'm four and a half years through a PhD program in a neighboring state, contemplating a second master's degree while I finish the PhD.

Is it all worth it? The master's degree(s), yes. The PhD, I'm not sure.

Alyssa at Apple Pie and the Universe posted an Economist article about "why doing a PhD is often a waste of time." She nicely highlights some of the main points of the article, mostly focusing on what's wrong with academia. I'd like to draw attention to part of the solution:
There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. [emphasis mine]
I've been confused by the seemingly conflicting views that academia produces too many and too few PhDs. That seems impossible, unless the sources of these criticisms are different. Academics say too many, businesses say too few. The solution? Train PhDs to work in business, not just academia!

I am not the only grad student in my department who does not aspire to follow in our advisors' footsteps. However, my training so far has perfectly groomed me to become a researcher and has made me fairly certain that I don't want to be a researcher (or professor at a research university). Almost daily I question the personal benefit of what I'm doing, but I figure I have a year or year and a half left so I may as well finish. It probably won't close any doors and may even open a few.

During the time I have left, I have to cobble together supplementary education to make myself marketable outside the academy. I have no solid mentors (so far), only a smattering of people whose personal interests I feel I have to account for when I receive advice from them.

Maybe my inexperience in post-secondary education is making this more difficult than it needs to be. My undergrad self was certainly not as well-informed as she could have been. Or perhaps this is a failing of the PhD training grounds. Perhaps there just isn't much support for those looking outside the traditional career tracks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nature's "Womanspace" controversy

As many of you are already aware, Nature published a piece of fiction titled Womanspace. It talks about a wife who sends her husband and his friend to buy knickers for their daughter because she was busy making supper. In the end, the men return empty-handed because they cannot fathom how to complete such a simple task. Their conclusion is that "women can access parallel universes in order to find things."

First, let's neglect the quality of the piece and focus on what it says.

Why, again, is this offensive? What if the roles were reversed and the wife couldn't find the knickers? Would the blogosphere cry about the author portraying women as useless? Nowhere does it say she is a housewife. Cooking may simply be one of her household duties that they equitably split after they both get home from work. As far as shopping, I see it as women being better at multitasking, while men can only focus on the single goal at hand. Honestly, the men seem rather like troglodytes while the women operate in the modern world.

This article essentially pokes fun at men, positing that men are unable to complete a straightforward household task and then having them invent parallel planes as an excuse. Yeah, that's gotta be it. Because they can't just be incapable.

My recommendation: Try to find the humor and be more selective in what offends you. Like crying wolf, you will not be taken seriously if too many things get you up in arms.

Other blog posts on this:
Scientopia, who has her own list of related blog posts
Contemplative Mammoth
Doing Good Science at Scientific American, who makes a good point that sexist stereotypes hurt men, too, and male and female stereotypes are present in this story.
Science Sushi at Scientific American
JAYFK, though I don't think it is appropriate for futures or pasts. Perhaps satire.
Principia Discordia (forum, not blog)
On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reducing obstacles: TG edition

Over at Making a Living Writing, Carol Tice posted on How to Eliminate All Your Freelance Writing Obstacles. She questions, does it seem overwhelming, too hard? These questions are not only for freelance writers. They are universal to challenging, valuable pursuits, and so is the prescription.

She opens with a Yiddish folktale, which is well worth a minute to read. Then her suggestion: change your attitude. To get perspective on the obstacles in your life, list what you have going for you. As the first commenter said, it's just in time for Thanksgiving.

I don't think it directly addresses the feeling that something is overwhelming, but it does make one feel better to take stock of good things. Feeling happier can make difficult things seem more approachable.

Here's my gratitude list:
  • Wonderful, supportive boyfriend who adores me
  • I'm in the best shape of my life
  • My mom may have health and potential financial issues, but she's still alive and in good mental health
  • I have a large, loving family
  • Even if it is occasionally stretched by unexpected expenses, my boyfriend and I both have secure income
  • I'm going to be an aunt for the first time in January, and two of my closest friends are having babies around the same time
  • Everyone believes I have a bright future and many of them gladly help me along the way
  • I have affordable basic healthcare

What's on your list?