Friday, December 28, 2007

yeah, reckon this one is definately germany's next top model

Yesterday I went and did some modelling for SuperCoolMatti - something he does whenever there are extra friends and family around who like to ham it up in front of a camera. These weren't for anything specific, just stock photos of a couple of themes and I got to act like a model for an hour, primping and preening and pretending to be gorgeous.

It's interesting to realise how far out of Anglo saxon society I am these days: I didn't even CONSIDER putting on makeup for it. With very few exceptions I don't wear makeup - something that I was rarely without in my early twenties. I usually only get back into when in Australia again, because almost every woman around me there does their face before leaving the house of a morning. German women generally wear extremely little makeup, and I'm taking that as: a) the reason that they seem to age really well and b) a damn good excuse for me not to bother with it.

Now obviously a shot like the one above would benefit from a bit of eyeliner, a dab of eyeshadow, or perhaps just someone with SINGLE COLOURED EYES. But you know the worst thing about my multicoloured eyes? They are the MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT ME. Which is such a sad state of being that I think I shall go and sink myself in leftover plum pudding and plot cunning ways of turning into one of those ├╝ber-cool people I keep seeing about the place.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

a bit of blowing my own trumpet

I mentioned briefly a while ago that one of my new time-consuming projects is cross stitch design and that I had a pattern coming out in a book.

Well the book is out and Amazon now let's you flick through a few pages.

It looks fantastic- although I'm still waiting for my contributors copy to arrive so that I can fondle it in real life, admire my name in print, lick the pages and generally just get waaay over excited by it. I also really want to see how they framed and photographed my piece. I spent a couple of weeks stitching the thing and destroyed my shoulders and neck doing so.

But... YAY!! I'm in a book!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

being put into unexpected company

Right now there's a really interesting interview with Karl Lagerfeld on TV. In german of course, which is always nice to hear. He's been talking about not using modern communication; his urge to constantly reinvent himself and destroy the old; his ability to get easily bored.

He just commented that he had about 300,000 books, with a huge table the length of his bed next to it with all the books he's currently reading. Just because stuff interests him.

"You're a bit like that," pipes up DrH. "I come home with 3 new books a year and you bring home 6 every time you're in a book shop. If it wasn't for budget considerations you'd have that many as well."

"Doesn't everybody?"

"No. It's these creative people I just don't understand. You, Karl Lagerfeld..."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

luckily for him it isn't yet -10°C

So DrH and I were walking the dog last night on his final nighttime round of peeing on every upright structure - and in a city like Berlin there are many, not the least of which are buildings, post boxes, signposts, bicycles and random bags of clothes which for some reason seem to populate our neighbourhood at the moment. So the evening walks tend to be a somewhat relaxed affair involving Leon Dog Wonder pulling desperately at the leash to reach the one small shrub or plastic wrapper he hasn't gleefully urinated on yet today and us holding stoically to the other end, shivering in the midnight cold and wishing desperately WE'D remembered to visit the lavatory before walking out the door.

Why does the cold always make you want to pee?

Anyway, last night we turned into our street at the corner where the mad, old, hat-wearing, cat-on-a-leash-walking, lets-leave-food-out-for-rats woman keeps her personal cat refuge in a few bushes. This cat refuge, by the way, comprises a cardboard box, a small foil package of cheap catfood which is changed regularly every three days, and a small dish of water. The rats love it. But on this occasion, rather than the swiftly vanishing naked rats tail, poking out of the garden bed was a pair of legs.

I called DrH over and, with much trepidation, shook the gentleman's knee and asked him if he was okay. It took a few tries, during which time my conviction that he'd departed escalated, but eventually he woke up enough to say "S'ok, I'm drunk." Only more slurred. And in german, of course.

By the time we'd got him upright, he'd worked out that he had in fact been walking his two dogs when he decided to pass out with his head uncomfortably jammed under the branch of a struggling spruce, and had no idea where they were now. So, DrH on one side, me on the other, we slowly stumbled down the street at 1am calling for dogs named Anja and Pinky.

Pinky. I kid you not.

Finally at his apartment door, the dogs barking on the inside having obviously found their own way home (perhaps having had previous practice), we left him to the gentle and nurturing arms of his wife.

"Look at you! Strangers had to bring you home! You filthy pig!"

Monday, December 03, 2007


Well my last post wasn't included in this months scientiae carnival. I will go on the assumption that it was because it was submitted too late (which it was, most definately), because I'd hate to think it was simply considered inappropriate. One of the reasons I went through the hell I went through was because it was considered inapproporiate to talk about. When scientists, whatever their gender, whatever their stage of career, aren't allowed to jump up and say "You know what? This science thing isn't for me, but I fucking rock anyway" then we are doing something very, very wrong.

Edited To Add: I have been included as a late update in the carnival, so I wasn't considered inappropriate after all, just late. Which, to anyone who knows me, is not a great surprise - the lateness I mean.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

transcending the debate

Another scientiae carnival is up, hosted by kate, and this time I thought I might write something for it... although I doubt anyone currently in academic science really wants to read anything I have to say here. The topic is transcending the debate… its about what you think of the big picture of science, your life in it and about moving on.

So what did I do in this big picture?

I left it.

You know what? I love science. I do. It's fascinating and thrilling and constantly changing. It excites and stimulates me. I still freelance in basic research, I still read papers, I follow blogs, I critique my husbands papers. I love it. But I don't love BEING A SCIENTIST.

Did the earth just crack open? Armegeddon start? A scientist saying she doesn't love being a scientist - didn't the world just end?


Isn't that giving in, giving up, selling out? I musn't be smart enough, good enough, experienced enough, tough enough. There are a number of things which still researching scientists could say about me, and most of them about my failure. I mean some are about my terrible dress sense and distressingly loud laugh, but we’ll ignore those for now.

Interestingly, some of the most critical are women scientists. Because I've let the team down. I didn't see it through. Grit my teeth and refuse to give in to this male dominated field. Fight the good fight so the next generation would have it easier. The pressure from academia is that their path is the only right one - anything less than professorship is failure. And should anyone dare, DARE, go into industry...well those are all the second class scientists, right? They can't be the best because we know that the best stay in academia.

Ooooh. Have I stepped on any toes yet?

So how did I get past this mindset? Well that was easy! Follow this simple recipe:
-spend two years depressed
-put on 20 kilos
-drink yourself to sleep every night
-almost destroy your marriage
Mix into a thick dough, knead brutally for a few years and then bake at 7000°C until you implode.

It took a lot of heartache and a lot of time for me to be able to admit to myself that, while I love science, nothing bores me more than being hemmed in to researching some tiny little aspect of some already highly specific field. That to me, doing PCR after PCR, gel after gel, purification after purification... well, I may as well just be repeatedly filling out Form 325bII in a random office somewhere for all the excitement that brought.

The grand picture thrilled me. The day-to-day work? It bored me to tears.

But to tell people that, to admit to the world that I don’t want this life, this uncertainty, this pressure, this boredom, this sexism, this poverty, this frustration, this fight? THAT was the toughest thing I’ve ever done.

Can I still call myself a scientist? I don’t know. I’m still doing occasional work, so I guess for the next two months I’m a scientist. And then maybe a few months after that I’ll be a scientist again for a bit.

But it doesn’t matter. Call me whatever you want. A scientist. An ex-scientist. A cop out. A failure. I’m more than that now. Science is a part of me, but to define myself by that alone… well, I want more than just that life. I want all the lives I can live. I want to be an entrepreneur, a musician, an explorer, a writer, an astronaut.

I want it all. And science couldn’t give me that.

So I left. And it was the best thing I did for my career.