Saturday, June 30, 2007

Studying or How to go back to school at 40!

I will be going to one of those prelaw bootcamp-like courses to move myself back into the swing of being in school. I don't expect to actually learn much (that would be a bonus), but I do expect to get back into the habit of being a student. So in preparation for law school, I started thinking about study habits and what mine used to be.

The bad: Wait until the last minute as a bet to someone that I could still make at least a B+ without having opened the book until the day before (never lost this one 'cause I chose my subjects well).

The ugly: All nighter's that I do not think that I can physically even do any more.

I am sure there were plenty of classes that I actually studied in a relatively decent way. But I am not sure about that. You see, right after I graduated with my Ph.D. I got fed up with the way I pay attention and finally went to someone about it. And it turns out that I have raging ADD. Which explains more than you could ever know. It explains why the fly in a class is so much more interesting than the lecture. Or why my mind goes on instantaneous tangential thoughts trying to listen to lectures. Or why I can hyperfocus for long periods of time to the detriment of everything else. My hyperfocus is so bad that my DH and I now have a system for him to get my attention. If I say yes to a question, he turns off the monitor, puts his hand over the book, or whatever is necessary to interupt me. It's annoying but it works. Unless you have to deal with this, you have no idea how insane this is. I have had entire conversations with him and others that I couldn't remember having minutes later. Because, I didn't really have them, the autopilot did.

People that I have told about this have always said the same thing: "Can't be that bad, you got through college for multiple degrees." And every minute after undergrad was like pulling teeth. I would have these elaborate systems to get myself to do things and crazy backups. And nothing ever worked well. Yes, I got the degree, but to this day I know I could have done so much better. Now, I know what I am dealing with so I make plans based on my attention span. Oh yeah, I also take medication. And the medication is like heaven. My brain stops throwing out a thousand random thoughts and I can have a conversation. I can listen and not lose track. But the really cool thing is that I don't take it all the time. I want to get lost in my thoughts or write, I stop taking it in the afternoon. And I have places for things and don't do ANYTHING without a list. I mean anything. Everything requires a list. And that list is broken down to sublists, etc.

So any way, back to studying. I actually feel better about developing study habits this time around. I got my meds, my habits, plans for dealing with the little quirks, and, hopefully, this bootcamp thing will give me a taste of what's to come. By next year, studying? Pshaw, that's easy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What do you do during the day?

Okay, from past posts, I have realized I'm not in touch with "what to do." Background: I was raised on TV. We never ate at the dinner table, we ate in front of the tv. My family lived in a series of places where they made no effort to know the neighbors and, basically, this seemed normal to me. So I had no neighborhood kids to play with and lead a fairly insular life. Later, in high school, I started the party thing. In my 20's, I tried a million outdoor activities, none stuck. And now, I am addicted to tv again, when I am not working. But this is not working for me. I feel like I am missing something. And it's experience. I can reel off millions of television and movie moments, but I have a hard time pointing to an event in my own life from the past 15 years.

So I sit here, trying to figure out what to do. What do I do? I could go out, but where? I could take a walk, but why? This feels ridiculous. I am actually searching on the web for normal people's schedules. I mean it, I am at a complete loss.

Okay, so I am going to try to figure this out. Oh, if you would like to tell me what you do with your day, I would love to hear it.

I love Spongebob

I am going to really miss the ability to "watch" (mainly listen) to movies and SpongeBob Squarepants while doing lab work. Really miss it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Using the past to stop the future

People do it all the time. They use past behavior or wrongs done to them to stop them from being who they could be. Some past wrongs are much worse and more crippling than others. I am talking about being dumped or used by people.

My latest realization is that I have tried very hard to shed me. I have spent years trying to be someone else. Many people do this. We all do it to some extent. Well, except those people that are just amazingly well-adjusted. As I get older, I want to rediscover who I really am. I want to stop who I think I should be and just start being.

In conjunction with the shedding process, I have also continually punished myself. Oh, I have made numerous mistakes and I have hurt people. There are a few people and what I did that I still can't think of without immense shame. But somewhere, we should forgive ourselves. Learn from what we have done, find the reasons we did the things that we did. The one huge mistake that haunts me 20 years later is that I cheated on someone that I loved very much. Because of this incident, for years I let other people take advantage of me and use me. I assumed that I was a bad person and should be treated poorly. To this day, I wish I could take back all of the hurt that I caused. But now I see a couple of people that were really bad at a relationship. He shut me out because he didn't know how to deal with me neediness. I started seeing someone else to compensate for the lack of contact. I have attempted, over the years to deal with my past. I still hate my actions and, on some days, myself. I am trying not to hate myself any more. I am not a bad person. That teenager wasn't a bad person. He wasn't a bad person. We were simply two screwed up people that had no idea how to talk to each other. I still can't write this without hearing that voice in my head that I AM a bad person. That I should be punished.

I have used this and other incidents in my past to stop my future. I slowly withdrew, using my career as an excuse. But part of it was always the need to punish or to not let anyone else see me. And now, I am tired of using the past. Yes, I have done things that hurt people. Just as I have been hurt by others. But I am going to stop letting it get in the way of making friends or doing the things I want to do.

The really nice thing about being almost 40. I can look like a dork. It's allowed.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

What happened?

That's the question that not only I but others ask of me, as well. Years ago, I started graduate school wanting to be a scientist. Not just as a career, I felt it was a calling. I obsessively threw myself into it. I would speak in hushed tones about it. I wanted nothing less than the brass ring; prestigious professorship at a research university.

Yesterday I met with a friend at old university. She is doing really well, an assistant professor with lots of grant money, many pubs, and a new lab she is really enjoying. I find myself envious. She helps by saying all the right things (the career is not for everyone, there are a lot of bad aspects to it...). Some how I still end up envious. I feel like she has the life I was supposed to have. Right down to being married to another successful academic and research in exotic places.

I so desperately want these feelings to go away. These emotions threaten to send me back into science, ditching any attempts to leave for another career. So why do I want to stay? I still enjoy the research. But not enough to stay. I want a defined career that doesn't define me. Science for so long defined me. And as I have said in earlier posts, I lost much to this career. I sacrificed it on the alter of science, an alter that I created. I think I was running from myself. I didn't want to be a nobody. I didn't want to be me. So instead, I shuttled everyone and everything that was associated with the me that wasn't a scientist. And in that, I tried to become a martyr thinking I would find that fulfillment that I found was missing within me. Yet that is the problem. It was missing within me. But fulfillment, in my opinion, has to come from within. It's like trying to shop, drink, or do drugs for love. It's why I turned from science to food. I eat for love. Food provides constant companionship and no judgement. I have plenty of judgement for a lifetime.

But my friend doesn't have the life I was supposed to have. There are enough moments in between the waves of jealousy that I can see that. I am happy. I have had a good life, full of numerous opportunities that have allowed me to explore so much of life.

One time, someone asked me why I changed my environment (job, apartment, town, etc) so often (often for them meant every 5 years). I said, and believed, that I felt the need to reinvent myself every 5-10 years to refresh my mind and spirit. Law will refresh me, I know that. But at this age, I am starting to become afraid. Afraid that I won't fit in at school, afraid that I won't be able to handle the coursework, and afraid that I won't find a job as a lawyer. But the one thing that I want more than any thing is to be afraid. Facing fear is the only way I know how to kick myself out of my comfort zone.

So what happened? I found out that science had feet of clay, that I couldn't be happy simply defining myself by a career, I was too burned out to keep going in this field, and I wanted a new way to look at science.

Friday, June 22, 2007


I just watched a documentary about the Intelligent Design movement. I still do not understand how people can deny evolution or even why. Or say things like "I don't believe in evolution." Evolution is not faith or belief. It's a matter of science. It's something that is continually tested each and every time scientists go into a laboratory.

I know that scientists have biases. Everyone does. But when it comes to testing theories, scientists are usually rigorous. They want to find out an answer, not prove their idea. I do not think that people truly understand this. I have stood beside other scientists that had their entire work reversed by a few experiments that negated their theories. And they didn't cover them up. They published them and changed the way they viewed and hypothesized their slice of science.

There are two major problems with trying to work Creation into science. And make no mistake, Intelligent Design is just another way for literal creation to recreate itself. The first major problem is that Intelligent Design is not science. Scientific theories or hypotheses, or at least the way many view it, must be falsifiable. This means that every test must be able to negate the hypothesis. In other words, just asking a question is not science. The scientific method, though reductionist, is a very good way to do science as it provides as answers that are as objective as possible. If you haven't seen it lately, in a nutshell the scientific method is observe, form hypothis, test hypothesis using experiments that provide for negating said hypothesis, and keep going. For instance, one of the hypotheses that I am working on these days is that carbon sources alter belowground microbial richness. Right now the answer is sort of. Which will be further tested and refined, at least until I start law school then someone else will pursue it. Intelligent design can not be falsified by any experiment. It is based solely on belief.

The second major problem, related to the first, is that the only way they approach proving ID is to attack evolution. However, advocates of ID rely on non-evidence. For instance, the fact or rarity does not prove a designer. It only proves that something is rare. My favorite quote comes from John Paulos:

"... rarity by itself shouldn't necessarily be evidence of anything. When one is dealt a bridge hand of thirteen cards, the probability of being dealt that particular hand is less than one in 600 billion. Still, it would be absurd for someone to be dealt a hand, examine it carefully, calculate that the probability of getting it is less than one in 600 billion, and then conclude that he must not have been dealt that very hand because it is so very improbable." --John Allen Paulos, Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences.

So possible and rarity are not incompatible by any stretch of the imagination. But falsifying evolution doesn't prove another theory. It simply falsifies evolution.

I don't have the space to deal with every ID argument, but there are a number of very good sources out there that do this.

So why do I care? Because evolution is a basic pillar of biology. It is important in discussing embryology, cell and molecular biology, pesticide use, antiobiotic and other drug useage, and in the discussion of the environment. Evolution is an important consideration in so many of the important issues facing the human race. Want to know why antiobiotic resistance happens and why it can be so dangerous? It has to do with evolution. Want to know why concern over species loss is so important or why small populations can be such a problem leading to extinction? It has to do with evolution.

Evolution is so important to so much of science. America wants to be a leader in the scientific fields. We can't do this if we deny such a huge driving force. We can't call ourselves educated if we do not understand as basic a notion as evolution. A professor will not write medical school recommendation letters for anti-evolution students. Do you want a doctor that doesn't believe in evolution over prescribing antibiotics or who ignores the reason why the flu vaccination changes every year? I sure as hell don't. Yet, people are suing him for discrimination. Idiocy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Talking myself happy

I am trying something I have always considered a little silly. My nature, in the past, leans toward the destructive side. Always wanting to party, always somehow envying misery even alcoholics. It's sick, I know. But I always thought there was something to the "noble" slide into misery and despair. Now I want to be an optimist or, at least, leaning toward happy.

Now I am trying to move away from that. Not the least of which, I kind of want to live a long and healthy life. I say kind of because I am still holding strong to many, many bad habits. One of which is complete and total cynicism. Cynicism is not realism. Just like optimism is not realism. And as for the old adage, "if you think the worst, at least you will never be disappointed," that is simply not true. When bad things happen, I am disappointed even though I expect the worst. A related trait is that I tend to belittle the good fortune that does come my way. Much like the other old adage, and I am paraphrasing, I wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have me for a member. All of this goes back to, of course, my beginnings. But I don't want to cling to all of this. I am tired of it. For instance, I got rejected or wait-listed by all of the top 20 law schools except for one. I expected that, plus I expected to be rejected from every other school. The top-20 one that I did get accepted into, I wanted to go to that one, even from the beginning. I want to live in that area. The resources for the area of law I am interested in are abundant at that school with numerous big firms that practice those areas. My first response: YAY! My second: Wait a minute, what's wrong with them. And so the cycle goes. I begin to doubt myself. Maybe this is a mistake. I will get a letter any day now telling me it was a mistake.

Anyway, I am now trying to be more accepting of the things that come my way, both good and bad. Good, we have a house that I like with a yard we can garden the heck out of. Bad, we are still trying to figure out where DH is working. Good, I get to go back to My State for field sampling, where I will get to see people I know and like. Bad, I have a lot of lab work to do in the next 75 days. Good, I am eating better because we can't afford to eat out any more. Bad, we can't afford to eat out any more. Good, we found homes for the kittens of a stray we picked up that was pregnant. Bad, I have to give my beautiful little guys away. And on it goes.

So the new thing that has taken me forever to write about is this talking yourself happy. I feel angry, I try to talk myself through it. First, it's okay to be angry. Second, breathe through it. Third, think happy thoughts, which could include beaches, hiking, skiing, etc. Fourth, really talk to myself about being happy. Repeat until the anger fades. I can't tell if it's working. Ask the telemarketer that argued with me about removing me from the call list.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

OMG, I am freakin' out

I hope I stop doing this on a regular basis, but I keep getting hit by the fact that:
1. We are moving July 12 and only have from July 4 to pack.
2. I still have papers to publish, projects to start, and laboratory analysis to complete.
3. I may have to pick up a few weekends in September to finish everything, which scares the hell out of me because of the whole grades thing.
4. I will have a small vacation in July. One I will have to cart my laptop to in order to finish everything.
5. And, not sure if it's a good idea or not, I signed up for a law preview course. It's been so long since taking regular courses that I hope this will help me.

These last three months have been depressingly busy. I was really hoping to have some down time before school, but that is so far from happening, I will be lucky to get a weekend. I keep thinking that I did this to myself, piling on stuff. But in reality, we did this. If we had been serious about saving money I could have quit sooner instead of dragging it right up until the day I walk into a classroom. I am going to orientation and then I will go back to the lab to finish up.

But on a much brighter note, we found a house. It's in a great neighborhood and there are plenty of cool places (like parks) in walking distance. I love the woodwork. And the garden (which pretty much includes the whole yard) will be awesome. AND we are done looking. That ended up being pretty much a huge pain in the butt. It had a lot to do with the price range. We would see these gorgeous homes in neighborhoods that were rundown. And because we were unfamiliar with the town, we didn't want to gamble too much on whether a neighborhood would make a comeback. Or we would see a house in our price range in a good neighborhood, walk in and realize that (1) it was tiny (we collect books) or (2) it wasn't move-in condition which we absolutely had to have with a July move. It was an experience I will not be eager to repeat. But we have the house! And we have a bus that goes directly to the campus! And we have cool neighbors!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

House hunting takes a looonnnngggg time

We must have seen over 100 houses at this point. And so many just sucked. Now I understand why some of these are still on the market. But I think we found the place we are interested in, at least I love it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

90 DAYS and HOUSE!

Not the show, my house. Tomorrow we start househunting in earnest. We will scour the town looking for everything. We have done this twice before. The first time our agent took us to so many scuzzy homes that when she showed us the one we bought, we weren't able to say no. Ah, so naive. What a wonderful way to trick someone into buying. The second time, we bought a condo. Never going to do that again, unless I am in New York City at some point. This time, the woman has been wonderful.

Can't wait, can't wait.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Check, check, and check's in the mail

Transcripts requested...check
Shots done...check
Last deposit sent...check

Now, house shopping next week. Need to find something that is big enough and in a nice enough neighborhood that we will want to keep it for a while. I love shopping.