29 April 2012

No title ...

So this week has been pretty sucky. I am largely hating work at the moment - it is terribly full-on and I get the feeling that it's going to stay that way until I finish. I'm just not cut out for putting such long hours into a job that I don't like. I have so much lab work to do and I really don't like lab work, it just stresses me out and then because I am stressed out I fuck things up. I have to go to Portugal in just over a week and my talk is half ready, but there is this one piece of work that I was hoping to have finished for both my paper and my talk and now it is not finished because I'm not sure if I'm doing it right, and I don't know how to use the microscope properly, and maybe I don't even have the right microscope available. The technicians at the hospital are willing to help me which is great, but they aren't free until after the conference. So first of all I have to deal with my supervisor's condescension and patronisation over me not being able to have this simple piece of work finished on time, and then the questions that people might ask at the conference because I don't understand this stuff properly. I could give them an answer that is completely wrong, which would be terrible. But at the same time, what do I care anyway, it's not like I'm going to stay in this line of research for the rest of my career. Though it would be terribly vindictive to get it all wrong on purpose just to screw over my supervisor. Who is still behaving badly. I ran into her and her family today (unfortunately, what a way to ruin Saturday) and after the necessary 'hi-how-are-you's she actually said to me: 'off to the lab? off to the lab?' in a chirpy voice while nodding her head, as if it's OK for her to expect me to work constantly. It's one thing for a student to choose to work the weekend, but they can't actually tell us to do so, that's against some sort of university rules. I really wanted to tell her no, I'm actually doing groceries and relaxing because I do actually need to eat and live, but instead I was nice. And then I was so put out that I did no work all day. Instead I made ciabatta bread (which is awesome by the way, I shouldn't make it because I eat too much of it). I watched The Secret Garden too. Old kids movies are great. Sadly I will have to work tomorrow though. I really don't want to. I just can't hack working the weekends. I brought a lotto ticket today though, maybe I won and can run away to a tropical island.

In other news, there really is no news. Everything here is the same as always. I like that I now have a pet to talk to but this last week he has not come out at all. Turns out it was because he was shedding. So now I have a snake skin and I don't know what to do with it. Then I invited a friend to feed him and we watched the snake eat a mouse. He has not come out of his cage in ages and I am too nervous to pick him up out of it - the tank is his own space so I don't want to put my hands in there, I would rather wait for him to crawl out and then pick him up. Tomorrow is a feeding day so I will have something to break up the lab work. Some of the other PhD students have Master's students at the moment to do lab work for them - I don't have that but at the same time, first you have to teach them how to do all the work so it's probably more trouble than it's worth. Though with somebody else helping me out I might not lose my keys so often, because there would be someone else with me to notice where I put them down. Luckily there is always someone at work to let me into whatever doors I need. It would me much worse if I lost my house keys.

The weather here the last couple of weeks has been really atrocious - freezing cold winds and plenty of rain. It always seems to rain whenever I go outside and it stops when I go in. It is OK when there is rugby practice but as soon as a match begins it starts to really lash down. We won our last game despite the rain, but I think it would be a nice experience to play in good weather. We have team t-shirts now and sadly they are not purple - they were supposed to be but instead they are royal blue with a red stripe. My fluorescent pink socks really don't match so I should get some bright red ones instead. I would like them to have some blue on them to match the colour scheme, like blue polka dots or stars, but you don't seem to be able to get socks that match my imagination so I guess I will just have to make do. It's quite sad though, because I really do seem to like to make a spectacle of myself. You need a cheerful point to the game because a lot of them take it so serious and get sort of aggressive - they really just need to chill out and have some fun.

Anyway, that's all for now and I sadly have no photos for you this week because nothing exciting happens and if it does I don't often have my camera, but next week I'll be in Portugal so I'll surely see new things to take pictures of and have proper news instead of nothing news. Or maybe not. I don't even want to go, it will just be taking me away from work for a week, and I will have to be around my supervisor far more than I usually would, and speak to people that are working in the same area as me, at which point I will have to pretend that I am actually enthusiastic about my research and believe it is going somewhere. I mean, what if I were to actually tell people that I think it's a waste of time for a lab with no expertise like my lab (which is really just me) to be attempting such novel work and competing against real experienced scientists - imagine the repurcussions! Perhaps I would be fired. That would make life a lot easier though, if you are fired you don't even have to go to the trouble to make the decision to leave, you just are told to. I'm sure my family wouldn't mind me bludging off of them! However, that is unlikely to happen because my supervisor has already had one student leave so she really needs to get my through my PhD or she will end up looking pretty incompetent. Which she is in some senses, but they don't bother to teach people how to supervise or lecture or manage, they just expect scientists to be able to do so. Which is crazy, there are a lot of scientists out there who should not be allowed anywhere near a teaching and management position, but there is no such thing as a university position in which you are a researcher doing your own research without having to manage students and teach undergrads, which takes up so much time that you don't actually get to do any research at all. It really is not playing to people's strengths at all, especially seeing as loads of scientists are so socially inept that they should never be allowed anywhere near a position that involves being in charge of other people. However, I am sure I said goodnight a whole paragraph ago so I will stop my griping now and get some sleep so that I can manage to haul myself out of bed in the morning and go to work (despite it being a Sunday). Goodnight world - please let me win the lotto or meet a millionaire sometime soon ...

20 April 2012

A slow week ...

I've been having lots of weird dreams this week. First there was this one earlier in the week that I can't remember at all, except that there was a spider in it, which caused me to wake up. I had to get up and turn the light on and check through all my blankets to make sure there were no spiders. Then the next night I had this crazy dream (actually, it was one of many and I've forgotten all the other weird stuff that happened, I only remember the scary bit). Ok, like a said, a crazy dream, in which Wilbert the snake was really agitated and moving around his tank a lot. Then he stretched his mouth wide open and I noticed that his mouth was an awful lot bigger than it used to be - like it was suddenly as large as my fist. Then I noticed that the rest of him was suddenly huge too (in fact, he didn't really look like Wilbert anymore at all), and the tank was partially open. So suddenly I was trying to close the tank and weigh down the lid so that this giant thrashing snake couldn't get out, when next thing you know the lid was pretty much on properly but the snake was half out of the tank. So I stepped away from him and he immediately came towards me, and for some reason picked up my scarf in his mouth along the way. So I wrapped it around his head so that he couldn't see and would stop moving, but that didn't work. Then he was somehow in my arms and I was trying to hold his head away from me but he managed to bite me on the hand, and his teeth were not all all like snake teeth but more like shark teeth, with lots of rows. Then I woke up and my hand was all tingly. I had to turn the light on for awhile again. I was worried that the run of bad dreams would continue but it seems to have stopped. Or at least I cannot remember them. Last night I also got up and turned the light on, at about 2 am, but I have no idea why, I think maybe I got up in my sleep and then woke up when the light came on. How weird is that? Clearly work is getting to me and I'm well on my way to a nervous breakdown. Hopefully when it comes I will also win the lotto and then I can just scarper off to some tropical island or buy a big boat and sail the oceans looking for whales. But for now I guess I should get back to work, that was all I had to say really, that and I'm really glad that it's Friday!

16 April 2012

I have just realised that it is only three weeks until I go to Portugal for a conference. It is probably the only real conference that I will go to during my PhD and it's all about biological adhesion. All of the big names in this area of research will be there and I am supposed to be giving a talk about my research. In three weeks.

It's Monday today but it doesn't feel like it because I worked in the lab all weekend. It was awful. It was sort of necessary though, seeing as I did nothing for the entire long Easter weekend. There is still so much to do though. As well as making a presentation and writing a talk I have to keep doing research in the hope that I will have more results by then. And I will have to do a lot of reading to make sure that I can answer any questions that are asked. I also have to repeat an experiment in order to get my paper about all of my microscopy work published. That's not so bad though - I heard back from the journal really quickly and one of the reviewers thought that it was absolutely perfect and needed no changes! The other one had a few comments but the only real change is that I have to repeat something, this time using a control. Which he is very right about, I should have done that in the first place. And then I will probably get my paper accepted and will soon be a published author!

As well as work I now have my pet snake to look after. He has not eaten in nearly two weeks - he attacks his food but does not eat it. His old owner says that is normal, he is just a picky eater. So I will try again this week. I have been trying to let him out every day so that he will be even tamer. He is happy enough to slither around my arms but he really likes to explore, which is how he managed to get stuck inside my office chair over the weekend. I freaked out, I had no idea what to do! I turned it upside down (he was in the gap between the seat cushion and the plastic bit that covers all the up-down mechanisms) and I thought I would have to call someone to bring me a screwdriver to take it to pieces. Then I decided to try and scare him out first and started drumming on the plastic. He came out eventually. I picked him up and held him some more but next thing you know I saw him open his mouth and move sort of quickly. Perhaps he was just yawning, I don't know, but I didn't wait to find out - I freaked (again) and flung him back into his tank because I really did think that he was going to try bite me. Not that it would have done much, but still, I didn't want to get bitten. He is definitely getting tamer, because now when I pick him up he immediately begins to move around instead of staying still in my hands. Yesterday he lifted his head and came straight towards my neck and face and I could not see what he was doing. Perhaps he just wanted to sniff around a bit but I was taking no chances and put him straight back. He spends a lot of time in his cage just looking out of the glass at me. I'm not sure if he can see me, but it really seems as if he can see a little at least.

The weather was nice over the weekend so I went for a walk to take a picture of the swan on its nest (not much of a walk, it's pretty close, just not quite my usual way home from campus). There is always a nest somewhere close to campus, I think that it is the same swan, and she raises her babies on the canal that runs past my building. Sometimes we feed them our scraps at lunchtime but she always steals the food from the babies and tries to attack our feet. I think the babies might be called signets, but I'm not sure. I hear that the eggs are huge but she is always sitting on them when I go past.

Now the weather is absolutely freezing again and I have rugby practice tonight. We had our first game last week and we won! I'm not sure if we were very good or if they were just not so well practised, but I hope that we can keep winning. It's 4 pm so I only have to keep working for another hour and a half. I have some lab work to do but the other lab that I would have to be working in is freezing cold! So I will sit here at my computer and try to prepare for this conference. I hope that it is warm in Lisbon, that will at least make up for having to work so hard until then.

05 April 2012

Meet Wilbert

Wilbert is my new pet. He's a snake. Not quite the same as a dog or a cat, but still, at least I have something to talk to at work now. And to watch when I'm procrastinating. He's an albino California King Snake and he's about 2 years old. His owner has left our department and poor old Wilbert needed a home. He's still very small (he will get much bigger and live for 10 years or so), which is good because that means his teeth are small. He is not venemous at all, in the wild he would catch food by biting it and wrapping himself around it until it died. In captivity, however, he has to settle for mice that are brought frozen and then thawed out and warmed up.

See, here is Wilbert with a mouse inside of him. After he has eaten he stays very still for a day or so, but then he will come out and move around his tank again. I have given him some big rocks and branches and a pipe to hide in so he seems pretty happy in his tank these days. He used to just hide in the woodchips all the time, which was quite boring. Now he crawls around.

So other than adopting a snake, I have been doing very little. I have been working, which makes me tired, and I have been playing sports, which makes me tired and hungry, so then I come home and make yummy food. And bake too much. Today there were cupcakes because it was a friend's birthday and I had too many. Now it is Easter so there is another excuse to bake and eat chocolate. Here in Galway there will be a food festival this weekend so I will have to check that out and maybe it will be interesting. I will need something to do on the weekend as the hiking club that I was going out with on a Sunday has finished for the semester. Last Sunday was the last hike and the weather was beautiful - I even got sunburnt. Luckily it faded quickly. We climbed a mountain called Maumtrasna, which was beside a couple of lakes. So lets end with some pictures and I will go do some work (or not).