Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Complete Idiocy

A co-worker of Dr. S's- let's call him Jack, as in And The Beanstalk,  is clearly living in an alternate universe.

Jack's spouse Cinderella, who is in a related field, got cold-called by Quite Good Famous State School to offer a faculty job.  It is at one of the best departments in Related Field; it is in their home state, near family (they have a small child and would like to move back).  They also invited Jack to interview him for a made-up-just-for-you faculty job as a 'preferred candidate', which is code for 'we'll give you a job if you're not a total jerk, just to get your spouse'.  

Cinderella took the job. Jack turned them down and did not even interview

Why?  Because Jack only wants a fancy snooty job at Fancy Snooty Private College Nearby.  Before you ask, no, Jack does not have five first-author Nature publications, nor is he likely to get any in the next year before they move, and yes, that's the only way to get a job at Fancy Snooty.  I believe the phrase you're looking for is "not in a million years".  And yes!  Taking a junior faculty position at Quite Good would make an excellent stepping-stone to Fancy Snooty! The man's a moron. 

Dr. S's slightly more charitable interpretation was that Jack had too much of a traditional-provider-man-beat-chest mindset to take a job on his spouse's coattails.  Yes, but someone handed him a faculty job on a silver platter and he'll only take it on a GOLDEN one.  AAAAAAAGH!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

FMB: My Head Might Explode

I once had to do a protocol with 94 separate fiddly steps, and I kept forgetting essential things.  Like taking a lunch.  Or a hat.  Or my keys.  Or once, memorably, shoes- in February.  I was halfway down the block before I realized the house flip-flops were not going to do the job.  I had to make a list and post it by the door, like a five-year-old:  "Lunch, bag, keys, hat, coat, gloves, shoes, lock door." 

This particular week, I have so many things to do (and yet, fewer than 94) that my head is about to explode, or maybe implode, from the stress.  How did I ever work in a lab?  How did I ever manage complex bicycle repair tasks at a huge company?

And then I remember that there was less screaming, and also I was not interrupted every five minutes.  Ability to focus: severely degraded by the CONSTANT SMALL CHILDREN.

(Which are still better than no small children.  But, dear heavens, when one needs to get stuff done.... ha.  Ha.  Ha.)

Monday, July 23, 2012


Dear World:  Choosing to, for a time, stay at home and take care of my small children did not erase all my intelligence, capacity, and analytical ability.

We are having a major household mechanical/electrical item replaced next week.  In consequence, tradespeople and sales representatives have been in and out of my house all week.  There was one in particular whom I wished to take by the shoulders and gently inform that "look here, little lady" was probably the wrong tone to take with me, i.e., the person who was going to decide where to spend $$$$. 

I read somewhere that stay-at-home moms control about 90% of the household's finances, including major purchases.  Because we are the ones making all the purchases.  Because we are home to deal with it.  Because we don't have to leave work to meet the person at the house.

So seriously, tradespeople of the world: don't piss us off.  When I ask a question about the advantages, warranties, and durability of various systems, I don't know already know the answers, but I do expect a respectful answer.  And I have a finely tuned bullshit-o-meter from many years of working with scientists.*

*Last week I, passionately and with great conviction, informed my spouse that Road A turned into Road B at Intersection C.  In fact, they are four blocks apart and do not meet.  But I was wrong with emphasis!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Now 100% More Random: Dishwasher Detergent

I know y'all are wondering, what does this have to do with science?  Nothing.  But if I post it here I can't lose it.

Recipe: Dishwasher Detergent for Hard Water (With Soap Flakes)

1 c borax
1 c washing soda
1/2 c citric acid
5 T table salt
3 T epsom salts
1 oz soap flakes (or 1 bar of soap)
Dessicator packet (from shoes, vitamins, whatever)

Take a cheap bar of soap (source: 3/$1 at dollar store).  Put it in a large glass bowl and microwave for about 2 minutes, until it stops puffing up.  Microwave another 30 seconds to be sure.  Put aside to cool.  Mix the other ingredients well, smashing up lumps. Now take two forks and a small child, and squish your soap into very small pieces.  (It is now all flaky and brittle; this is not hard.)  Either measure out 1 oz of the dried flakes on a scale, or estimate 1/3, and add this to the other ingredients.  Put them all in a sealed container with the dessicator packet. Use 1 T per load, plus about 1/2 T in the 'prewash' compartment if you want. 

It actually washed our dishes, unlike its homemade predecessors that I tried out.

(Use at your own risk.  If it overflows/ kills/ otherwise harms your dishwasher, well, sorry.  It was okay in mine.)

Friday, July 13, 2012


I recently had an allergist appointment; I keep eating things* and feeling unprecedentedly awful. (I rejoice in this, a.k.a. "You're Screwed".)  Here, I'll summarize:   USELESS, now with more epi-pen. 

They re-tested for pollen allergies.  Results: what I told them the results were from last time.  The allergy fellow was sympathetic.  The attending delivered himself of a lecture, the contents of which I already knew. They told me to avoid foods that make me feel unwell.  Then they gave me a chart just like Wikipedia's.

I conveyed quite clearly to them  that I wanted to know what I shouldn't eat before the full-body itching, coughing, and shortness of breath. The allergist claimed that skin-prick testing is inaccurate for OAS.  This is true: commercial antigens are useless.  Fresh sources, however, are pretty good, according to at least a few studies. 

Aaaaannnndddd... now I'm seriously considering doing skin-prick tests on myself, with fresh foods.  Where can I get a little histamine, now? 

* Things I can't eat ever: Dairy products, pecans (!!!), walnuts
Things I can't eat fresh: Celery, parsley, mangoes

Things that are maybe not okay in large quantities: Strawberries, bananas

Things that are probably not okay: Hazelnuts, various spices, cantaloupe, canola oil, raspberries
Percentage of this entire list that I really, really like: 100% 
Mournfulness at loss of pecan pie: 110%.   

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where Does The Time Go?

This week, I sat down to write a letter to Belle.  When I looked at the postcard to which I had been replying, I realized it had been sent a month ago.

Many days, we stay home while Bug screams, Tatoe nurses, and I do laundry (not all at the same time).  Today was more useful... and yet, this is what I do all day.

6:15 Feed baby.
6:30 Breakfast, clothes, tooth brushing.  Mix up the bread. 
7:00 Feed baby.  Read Bug books.
7:45 Spouse leaves.
8:00 Bug watches Sesame Street. Tatoe screams.  I shower.
8:05 Putz around on the Internet for ten minutes.
8:15 Tatoe falls asleep nursing.
9:15 I decide I MUST get up. Tatoe wakes up and screams.
9:30 Leave for morning playdate.
11:45 Back from morning playdate.  Loaf out bread, fix lunch.
12:00 Nurse baby while eating
12:15 Get chicken stock started.  Eat the rest of lunch. 
12:30 Bug to bathroom, stories, nap.
12:45 Lay down with Tatoe.  He nurses.  And nurses.  And nurses.
2:45 Cannot take it any more.  Get up.  Tatoe wakes up and screams.  Bake bread.
3:00 Garden with Tatoe.
3:15 Type away madly while Tatoe escapes from carrier/ eats computer/ wails.
3:30 Bug wakes up.
4:00 Laundry.  Walk with children.
4:30 More laundry.
5:00 Leave for evening minyan and dinner potluck.
7:30 Get home.  Bathe children.  Nurse Tatoe for two hours while spouse does dishes and sweeping.
9:30 More laundry.

And.... lather, rinse, repeat in ten-minute intervals.

Friday, July 06, 2012

FMB: Honesty and In-Laws

Something that never fails to drive me a little up the wall:  When people aren't capable of being honest with themselves. 

I'm not talking about little things like "Surely if I eat this entire chocolate bar I won't feel ill afterwards" or "Why yes, this skirt is flatteringly cut and not too short."  I'm talking about a systemic failure to 'fess up inside one's own head. 

Two that got me lately:

1) An acquaintance of mine going on about how it's best for everyone to only have one child.  Er.  No.  I'm perfectly willing to go along with: there are advantages for both an only child and the parents, such as more attention; this is the right choice for our family; we wanted another but found it biologically impossible and  are making the best of it; and so on. 

2) My in-laws.  Oh, my in-laws!  Categorically unable to separate "this is how we live our lives" from "this is the best and only true way in the entire world."  Examples: Nutter Christianity; meat every day, usually twice; a new car every year.

And while we're on it, their inability to deal honestly with the consequences of their own damn actions!  Specifically, being fiscally irresponsible DOES leave one without a terrific cash flow, and refusing to come visit us because they "don't feel welcome" DOES mean they won't see the little one.

Five minutes are up, DING!

Monday, July 02, 2012

On Balance And Cats

There was a recent much-discussed article about work-life balance and having kids and so on.  I read a particularly inflammatory comment on you-know-where (hi, Sara!) about how everyone has commitments that are JUST as important and time-sensitive to them as having kids and so it shouldn't be about people with kids, but work-life balance.

Well, the person was half right.

When I was working, I got a free pass to leave at 5:30 without question*, which was deeply unfair, since childless co-workers were asked to work late.  (I wouldn't have done without kids, either.)  If someone else really, really wanted to take a yoga class, and their work was getting done, why should it matter when they left?  Personal time is personal time; people should be able to do their work and then leave it at home.

At the same time, a child is a dependent.  The cat can use the litterbox and the auto-cat-feeder; the child cannot.  It is just like being responsible for the care of an elderly person, or an adult who is ill or not able to take care of him- or her- self.  If the nurse leaves at 5, someone has to be home at 5; it is not negotiable.  It is not, in fact, necessary to be home precisely when one's competent, adult partner arrives home from work.  Dependents are just that: needy, not at all independent, large or small people who require your assistance to meet their basic needs.  My spouse can make his own damn dinner if he needs to.

This person on FB claimed that it was as important to this person to be at home with possessions, pets, and partner as it was for another person to be home with her children.  This is quite possibly true.  However, the possessions do not NEED this person, and the children DO need someone, and the nanny has to go home. 

What I'm trying to say is, I think parents get a free pass because it is implied that their 'time with kids' is part of the essential dependency of the children, which is true for some things (daycare pickup!) and not true for others (sports games!).  People without kids may have time-sensitive commitments (picking up kitty from the vet!  doctor appointment!) that cannot be done by others, and these should also be respected, as should people's desires to not work all the bloody time.  But there are practical differences between having dependents and... not.  They don't make automatic baby-feeders.

*The daycare was required by law to call the cops and social services at 6:15, for kids not picked up.  I did tell my boss this.