Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why, and why not?

My head hurts. Wherefore the hurting? Specifically, it's my eyes that hurt, and in the way that usually comes from a day of staring at the computer without actually engaging in it (i.e., it happens when I'm bored at work and go Web-surfing, but not when I'm working all day or when I'm on to write). However, I've spent almost no time on the computer today. We slept late, I talked to Dad (he was fishing), we went shopping, I watched my coworker and her sister and brother-in-law dig out our lilac tree (I think they killed it, but it's their problem now), I worked in the garden, I read. I repeat, wherefore the hurting?

Anyway, I shall leave the computer momentarily, but first I wanted to note this: I was doing some research for my neurofinance blogging gig, looking through my old textbooks and doing a PubMed search and writing down notes, and writing up a draft, and I realized: I love this. I was truly having a fantastic time reading about science and writing about it. Why did I give up the science writer idea? It is now officially back on the table.

The question is, do I need to go back to school for it? If I want to go to the program in Santa Cruz, for example, I need to decide fairly soon so that we can change our plans for next year (assuming I got in) and get used to the idea of 250% the amount of student debt we currently have. I already know there's a series of classes at UW on science writing but no program. On the other hand, Catherine Shaffer got into it on the strength of a science background, writing skill, and determination to do it. I've been feeling myself slowly come around to a more writing-friendly, writing-focused perspective lately. I don't know what's doing it, since I've been trying and failing to get here for quite a while. But I'm coming around. Now, where do I go from here?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Happy us

I've been married for a year now. Good grief. It hasn't been the rocky year people say the first year is--at least, not for marriage reasons. We went out to the park where the wedding was, and the bookstore where we spend our time before dinner (the first anniversary is paper!), on Sunday, and out to the restaurant we ate dinner at a year ago this evening. We're good with doing this marriage thing for another year. Happy anniversary to us.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ah, griping.

We're considering going on strike at work. My department--Technical Services--consists of five people plus the boss, and we are a hub of expertise, client contact, and general figuring-out-how-to-do-things...ness. We are not actually going to strike, but we are irritated, and we are more and more frequently gathering in a knot between MH's cubicle and mine to gripe.

A is our chemistry specialist; not only does she do her job, but she's more or less a supervisor of the actual chemistry department, which is not her responsibility except that the technicians come to her because (a) she knows more and (b) she is more responsive than the chemistry supervisors. MH and I do toxicology. K tends to most projects coming in and checks them for paperwork, to make sure we can do the work, etc. J came to us from the prep room, which is a subdepartment more or less belonging to us, and was meant to be a sort of junior specialist (assistant, working her way up to full specialist) but, since the other prep person is completely unwilling to entertain a partner other than J and has actually chased off a previous employee, and can't handle the work alone, J has been sent back to fill in for prep until we find someone the other prep person can tolerate (or our boss bites the bullet and yells at her to knock it off).

We've recently been asked to (a) start writing special protocols, (b) check certain types of projects coming in for completeness and follow up with clients, and (c) follow up with clients after we've dispensed our expertise to them. None of this is in our job description, and the last one is permanent (so fine, except that I don't like it) but the other two we were told would be temporary, but there are indications that the boss's boss considers us permanent. We also field questions from the labs and from clients' clients and regulatory bodies, help another department with their trainees, collect information, do work for the sales reps that they ought to be doing, and generally fill in a lot of little jobs that nobody else will take responsibility for. Plus with J gone, we're doing all the little things she would otherwise be responsible for (and would in fact prefer to the prep room).

The sales reps get bonuses based on the work we get from their various territories. My department gets none. This actually means that when we help our clients and net big projects, we're supplying the sales reps' bonuses. It's especially hard on MH because he used to be a sales rep. He seems to feel that not being on the road half the time is worth the pay cut, but he, like the rest of us, would like to think that when we're supplying clients with information and telling them exactly what they need to do, explaining how and why, and helping them through the process of getting their stuff in to us, we're not just doing it to enrich the people who keep sending us e-mail saying "I'm out of town, need you to do this. Send paperwork too" and "I got behind, is there anyway (sic) you can handle this?" and "I don't know what this client wants, can you find out?"

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Plus I would have had to stay in Baltimore.

I was just looking at the Association for Psychological Science website and found that the current issue of their periodical is on the links between psychology and neuroscience. I took a class from one of the authors of one of the articles. It made me regret leaving grad school for a moment. I thought--and I still think--that these problems are really interesting, even important. I had wanted to do something about it.

But I don't regret leaving really. Staying wouldn't have made me happy. It might have gotten me a tiny corner in this area, if I'd stayed in the program and if I'd gotten a postdoc in something I actually wanted to do, rather than something that sounded vaguely interesting and was the only place I felt I could go. But it wouldn't have given me the wider understanding of the general problem, which is what I really wanted, I think. And I know I wasn't what a graduate school wants out of a grad student: 110% dedicated, willing to put up with politics and late nights and demeaning jobs, willing to put my head down and delve into a tiny niche and never come back up for air. I still don't know what I want entirely, but I really do think I'm happier reading such a publication than contributing to it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The next subgenre: geek romance

Eric and I talked about whether there would ever be a market for geek romance novels. Our verdict was no, but only once we got past some prejudices about what the term "romance novel" really means, beyond "trashy cover, awful words for sex, plot revolving around fake misunderstandings and sex scenes," and what "book with strong focus on non-romantic relationship" would be called (mainstream, we suppose). The market would probably be mainly geek women, which is sadly too small a slice of the population to be commercially feasible. Eric says it might also garner a following in teen fiction, but I thought it would make more sense in adult, since more people will admit to geekery in adulthood than teendom.

But we decided the subgenre could spawn some awesome book covers. Picture a man in a labcoat, baring his white chest, hints of a calculator peeking from behind the edge of the coat, and Star Trek boxers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Life is good.

I am currently feeling excellent. The tax thing got taken care of, by the way; I called up the guy I called before and he kind of laughed about it, noted in passing that I was listed under a completely wrong SSN in their system, and removed the charge. Today work was short because of a dentist appointment, which went very well, and after the appointment I went to Bassett's to buy wheat berries, rye berries, and oat bran for bread. I came home and spent a couple of hours in the yard, in the sunny not-too-warm weather, planting corn and echinacea and more parsnips and parsley. Then we made pizza for dinner (calculating along the way that homemade pizza costs us approximately $3 a pizza, which is $0.75 per meal) and now I'm alternately reading and working on my garden records. Soon I will write. I want more pizza but no, maybe I'll have one of the leftover killer brownies.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bedtime countdown

It is 11:17 (though that will have changed by the time I get done writing--there, it already has) and I am contemplating working on Shoelace in the 13 (now 12) minutes left before bed. Not that we always go to bed at 11:30. In fact, rarely. But last week we were mostly in bed at around midnight, and I was tired as heck--tireder than Eric, in fact, since (a) he got Monday off because his back was spasming and got several hours more sleep and (b) he gets off earlier and naps before I come home. Which is not to say I couldn't nap when I get home...but it hardly ever seems like the right time of day to do so.

Anyway, sleep in 11 minutes now. If I just keep writing there will be no time for Shoelace. Which is okay, despite my not having gotten quite to 50k yet. I've been doing a paid blogging gig, which excites me no end, and I should have had a post up today, but inspiration has not come. It doesn't help that we spent most of the day over at the mothers' for Mother's Day. The mothers seemed pleased with the day, despite rain and gloom destroying their plans for a cookout and an outdoor meal (or at least the outdoor meal; they still used the grill under a huge umbrella). Eric's sister was unhappy with her husband, we think because he didn't get her anything for Mother's Day (or rather their daughter didn't--but since she's fourteen months old, the onus falls on her father) and I was a bit withdrawn overall. But the time passed reasonably pleasantly, and I got some silicone baking sheets for my birthday (which was April 5. My brother-in-law also got the same sheets in a different color. His birthday was in March. The mothers have had these since March, they say, but didn't give them to us because the projected birthday dinner never materialized), and our ice cream (strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate brownie) was a hit.

Now I'm home and I feel like I didn't get enough weekend. Yesterday we spent making ice cream, buying groceries and Mother's Day gifts and jalapeƱo pepper plants since mine didn't come up (we wanted poblanos too, but every poblano plant we looked at was infested with aphids, so we didn't buy any and informed customer service before we left), and going to the symphony. This week should be relatively slow; Eric's student teaching is coming to an end, and aside from a dentist appointment we should have time to do things we didn't, like clean the house. I want more time. But that's hardly unusual.

And now it is bedtime. Good night!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Not just my wages but also my patience

I got a notice in the mail from the Toledo tax department, saying I owed taxes plus penalties and interest, which about doubled the tax amount. I owed this, the notice said, for 2005.

I moved here in November of 2005, right after leaving my job. I didn't get another one until May of 2006. I don't owe them tax. I told them this several months ago, when they sent out the initial notices saying "We're out of money and so we went back over our records to see what we could squeeze out of people," or rather, "We have conducted an audit, blah blah blah," and told me I owed tax. I didn't owe it for 2005 then and I don't now. (I did owe for 2006, because my current company isn't in Toledo proper and doesn't withhold tax for other cities.) I called up the principal tax auditor conducting this thing and he said, "Yeah, I thought it was unlikely when we sent them out," and told me to send in my old W2s and that should take care of it. Evidently it didn't, or perhaps nobody opened the envelope. I am unamused. I am also uninclined to pay my quarterly taxes since they'll surely just lose the check.