Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A good song--Cantaloop by US3

I'd never heard this song before until recently; it's from 1993. Twenty-four years later, and still cool.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My post about sexual harassment from October 2016

I wrote a post called Defining sexual harassment in October 2016, and am re-posting it today. It is worth re-reading, if only to remind myself of what sexual harassment is, what some workplaces have done about it, and how nice the world would be for both genders if it simply disappeared. But of course bad behavior never just 'disappears'. It has to be fought tooth and nail before change comes about. I believe that time has come.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Weighing in on sexual harassment in the workplace

I came to Norway in October 1989, and began working as a senior research technician in January 1990. I remember many things about that time, but one thing that stands out is the behavior of the research institute leader at that time (now deceased). While he was friendly to me, he was also someone I felt uncomfortable around. I found his jokes to be rather stupid, e.g. wondering if I or my family were in the Mafia because I had ancestors who were born in Italy. The first week I was at work and he met me in the hallway, he said hello and went on his way. An hour or so later, he returned with an oversized lab coat for me to wear, so that my mini-skirt would be ‘covered’, as he put it. I guess he found me too tempting for the men who worked there--a young woman working among them who wore her skirts above the knee together with high-heeled boots. I found his behavior odd, but thought no more about it. As the months went on, I was told that he and his wife were religious people and had served as missionaries in Africa for a period. I am not sure why that mattered, as I found him to be a man whose spiritual qualities were quite rusty, whereas his physical (read—sexual) needs seemed to matter more. He was already in his sixties when I started to work there. I’ve written about him before, but the stories concerning him bear repeating, because he was a man who behaved in a sexually-harassing way. No one would have called it that then, but they would now. If I commented on his behavior to the others I worked together with, they would tell me that’s just the way he was, to ignore him, he was harmless, etc. But still I never felt comfortable around him, and I am not so sure he was as harmless as they wanted me to think. I was together with him in an elevator one day, just us two, and he cornered me and began to ask me if I knew the difference between the Norwegian words fytte and fitte. The former is usually used as part of an expression to denote irritation, e.g. fytte fan (similar to ‘goddamn it’), whereas the latter is the slang word for pussy. Of course I didn’t since I was just starting to learn Norwegian, so he of course had to explain the difference to me, and I know he enjoyed doing so. He enjoyed having that power over me, enjoyed that I felt uncomfortable. I couldn’t wait to get off the elevator. Perhaps he enjoyed testing to me to see how I would react. After all, I came from New York City, sin city in his eyes for all I knew. I’m sure that’s how he felt about it. His wife was a pleasant older woman who was probably sick to death of his flirting with younger women. Because for all his religious leanings, he really was a dirty old man. I have seen him dance with younger women and grab their breasts, and I know that he grabbed the rear end of a female Brazilian scientist who promptly told him where to go. That story was relayed to me along with several others that cemented his reputation as a dirty old man, at least to me. He was also not interested in giving credit to those who actually did the work on research projects; he planned who were to be the authors on a research article before the work for it had even started. His view was that the only people who could be included as co-authors on an eventual article were those with PhDs and MDs. At that time, I had a Master's degree and was considering starting PhD work. One of my colleagues, a male MD, protested that this was unfair, as I did, to people like me who would actually do the work. I am forever grateful that he did that, but it didn't change this leader's mind. I can tell you that my interest in helping this leader was null. The project never got started because there was no one to do the work. He was a sexist pig who hid his proclivities under the cloak of religion.

Through the years there have been other men who have behaved similarly, commenting on ‘the view’ if you happen to bend over, or telling jokes about ‘a bush’. Or drunk male scientists at research conferences who danced with the younger women there, and who were all over them which resulted in their having to be forcibly removed from the dance floor by some good men because they would not let go of the women. I’ve witnessed all of these things.

Why do I bring up these behaviors today? Because these types of behavior do not belong in the workplace. After this past week’s revelations of how Harvey Weinstein treated many of the actresses who were working in the films his company was producing, I see the importance of calling a spade a spade. Weinstein’s behavior borders on/is criminal, especially if he did indeed rape some of the women who have called him out on his behavior. Sexual harassment in the workplace really is a terrible thing. There is already enough harassment and bullying in the workplace (including academic workplaces where the balance of power lies firmly with male mentors and leaders) against women by powerful men, and if you add in the sexual component, it becomes a nightmare for many women to have to go to work each day. When you are young, you don’t always know what to say when someone treats you like this. You may blame yourself first. The smart thing of course is not to do that, but I don’t know too many women who have managed to blame the men first, to fight back or to challenge their harassers. It's very easy for those who have never experienced harassment to say that they wouldn't stand for it, that they would fight back, etc. The harassers have the power and control, and most women do not. If women complain or stand up for themselves, they are labeled as difficult and out-of-control. Consequently, they are not considered for leadership positions and are otherwise frozen out of the old-boys club. And that’s the problem. When I was younger, the old-boys club thought they could get away with treating women as sex objects and making them feel inferior, and not much has changed now that I’m older. Power-hungry men still run the show, and some of the perquisites include being able to have women at their beck and call. And there will always be women who undermine other women in order to curry favor with the old-boys club. These are the women who will tell you to ignore their behavior, or he didn’t mean it, or it’s worse at other workplaces, or he’s really a nice guy, or he's never done that to them. There are some men who say the same things. These are the women and men who wake up years down the road (perhaps when their own daughters become victims of sexual harassment), when it’s too late to do anything about it except to regret that they feigned ignorance or deliberately ignored abuse when they could have spoken up and supported those who needed their help. They have to live with their guilty consciences. Frankly, I don’t care about them or what happens to them. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Our annual autumn drive

We took our annual autumn drive today, a beautiful sunny day, perfect for the occasion. We drove through Jevnaker and Hønefoss, and stopped at a farm in the Hønefoss area where you could pick your own corn. So we stopped and bought some corn, drank some coffee, and went to say hello to one of the sweet horses that was in one of the pens near the corn stands. On the way home we drove along Tyrifjorden, which I think is one of the loveliest in Norway. I took some photos of our afternoon trip that I wanted to share in this post.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rays of sunshine on a gray autumn day

Why I bother to write about modern workplaces

I doubt that my workplace and my reactions to it will change much before I leave it behind for good. I wish I could just let it all go--the stupidity, rude behavior, narcissism, ego trips, lack of common sense--just put all of these things behind me. Just do it. Be the better person. Take the higher road. But if I do that all the time, what then? When is enough enough? When is it ok to stand up for yourself so that you don't get stepped on all the time by the 'system'? When do you need to stand up for yourself? When it means that if you don't, others, including yourself, get hurt? I see the word 'system' used so many times when people complain about things in their workplace. We employees are a part of the system, ergo, we must stand up and be counted, otherwise we are just stupid sheep who have no right to complain that things are not as they should be. 

I so enjoy the intellectual aspects of my work; unfortunately the reality of my workplace is something other than enjoyable since it does its best to destroy that joy coupled to the accomplishment of real work. The bureaucracy does not understand that it exists to serve the employees, not the other way around. Additionally, everything boils down to money. Daily work life is an endless conversation about money to do research or to pay the salaries of hard-working people--the desperate hunt for it, the lack of it and the stress (bordering on desperation) of not having it, the envy of others who have it, the lack of 'smarts' about how to use it when one gets it--and so on ad nauseam. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually miss the 1990s because there was less emphasis on money, budgets and bureaucracy, and more on actually getting some good research done, whether or not you were a small research group or whether or not you had a lot of grant money. You did the best you could with what  you had, and you were no less a good researcher if you didn't manage to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding. Now you're simply no good if you don't. It was understood in the 1990s that some few (as is always the case) would be the best (at getting grants and international acclaim), but there was room for the others--the next best. There was room for 'good enough'. Not anymore.

There are and always will be conflicts about who gets what, whose ranking is higher than others, who 'deserves' this or that, etc. But it's out of control now. I realize about myself that I really am not a person who is good at tackling conflicts. But sometimes it's necessary to take on the system when it is defined by conflicts, especially if they border on stupid. As I've gotten older, I see that I am simply not interested in being talked down to, treated like a child, controlled/measured/evaluated at all turns, treated rudely by arrogant people, etc. I don't treat others this way, so I don't want to be treated this way. Leaders have simply not learned how to treat their employees with respect. Each day that passes is a new exercise in being treated like a child. When I say this is in my workplace, my words fall on deaf ears. That is my workplace's way of dealing with things it doesn't want to hear. It ignores emails, direct confrontations, attempts at compromise, etc. When they want things their way, that's law, and employees must just accede.  

The contradictions are many:
  1. You are asked why you don't take on responsibility for this or that task, but when you do, you are not given the authority to change anything, to spend any money, or to ask for help from others. You are not given control over the task you have assumed responsibility for. You are like a child told to wash the dishes. You are not to question any aspect of what you have been told to do. It's fine for a child, but not for an adult. 
  2. Alternatively, you find out that the reason they asked you to do 1) was that the bureaucrats could 'check off' that point on their list. She said yes to doing this or that, great. It doesn't actually really matter that it's just responsibility on paper. In other words, they don't care whether you do a good job or not. 
  3. You are forced to listen to the endless rhetoric about how 'we are going to be the best', when being the best entails allowing employees to function as adults in their workplace--letting competent employees decide the best way to do this or that, especially if they have the expertise and you as a leader do not. Leave competent people alone to do their jobs. But the bureaucrats/leaders don't understand this or don't want to in 2017.
  4. Leaders in our research system say that everyone can be 'the best', but what they don't acknowledge is that if everyone becomes the best, then no one is best anymore. It is circular stupid logic.

You may wonder why I bother writing about this at all anymore. For those of you who have read this blog from its start, you know that I am quite critical of modern workplaces that let themselves be run by bureaucrats (most of the public sector workplaces) who enjoy incorporating the trendy business philosophies of the moment into their workplaces. It doesn't matter that they don't fit there (think LEAN in a research environment. We are not a factory). My public sector workplace has spent a decade or more trying to perfect New Public Management, and now they've moved on to LEAN. Why, we'll never know. Private sector workplaces do not permit this idiocy. I don't know if they are any better in the long run. But I prefer to think and hope that they are. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What’s wrong with this picture? v3

I promise this will be the last post with this title. But the past week or so has been nothing but scenarios of this type at work—inefficiency, stupidity, misinformation, poor communication, laziness and just plain indifference. I'm so tired of it all, of having to deal with customer service reps at scientific supply companies who don’t want to deal with customers, of talking to salespeople who haven’t the faintest notion of when their products will be delivered but who lie anyway and give you a delivery date so that you spend several hours running around trying to find out to whom it was delivered. I’m tired of leadership that doesn’t have the faintest idea what employees want or if they do know, how to give it to them. I’m tired of hearing ‘we’re going to be the best in the world’ when the IT infrastructure is crumbling around us. You don’t get to the top with an IT infrastructure that is from the Stone Age. I’m tired of hearing the same conversations about the same problems that we’ve been talking about for years. There were no solutions to them four years ago and there are no solutions to them now. There are no solutions because there is no money, or if there is money, it has been misappropriated and used on things that were not necessary. We need an IT budget to revamp the IT infrastructure. We need to be discussing the future of IT in our department, how to arrange it, how to pay for it, etc. We don’t need to be discussing Christmas parties, overnight seminars or other social events for which we have no budget.

I’m tired of so many thing in the workplace. I cannot wait to retire, so that I can do other things that get me outdoors, away from the four walls of a sterile office, away from the claustrophobic interiors and indoor climates of modern buildings where you can hardly open a window. I want to breathe fresh air, be surrounded by trees, plants, greenery. I want to let go of all that is unhealthy—the stress of useless discussions and problems that will never be solved. I want to be free of arrogant leaders, leaders whose egos are like black holes that destroy everyone in their vicinity. I’m tired of leaders who permit convicted criminals to remain in their jobs. I want to be free of the rhetoric, the bullshit, and the lies when it comes to ‘being great’. I’ll settle for being good enough. I don’t want any more competition for funding, for promotions, or for publishing. I don’t care about impact factors, H-factors, titles, prestige or anything related to inflated egos. I am so tired of academia and academics. I never thought I’d say it, but it’s the truth. I can’t wait to retire to my garden. That’s where you’ll find me.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

What's wrong with this picture? v2

And then there’s my bank. Another exercise in stupidity and misinformation. Really, you couldn’t write these scenarios if you tried. Truth is really stranger than fiction.

I received my new MasterCard in the mail from my bank at the end of August. I’ve had a MasterCard account with them for over twenty years now, and there’s never been a problem with my name being misspelled, etc. This year, for the first time, they had spelled my last name wrong. So I called the bank and spoke to a customer service rep who assured me that the problem would be taken care and that he would correct the misspelling and send out a new card. He spent all of about a minute telling me that, and the next few minutes trying to convince me to invest my money in one of the bank’s stock market accounts. When he realized I wasn’t going to bite, he switched over to trying to get me to buy insurance. I politely told him that I was considering many options concerning how to invest my money, but that the only reason I had called was to get a new MasterCard. He backed off. I received my new card about a week later, and the new card had the same misspelled last name as the first card. So I called again, and another customer service rep registered my complaint and the problem, and assured me that the mistake would be corrected and a new card (#3) would be sent out to me. He said he had even tested the computer system and that it ‘took’ my last name with no problems. A week later I received the new card, and wouldn’t you know, my last name was misspelled exactly as on the first two cards. So I called the bank again, and this time I spoke to a female customer service rep who informed me that the correct last name was registered in the system, but that there was a computer error in the system such that they could not send out a new card. She also suggested that I just use the cards with my misspelled last name. When I informed her that this was not right and that I would not be allowed to use these cards by any of the companies I buy from online, she backed off. I asked why the other two reps had not been aware of the problem that had existed for a least a few weeks already according to her. Her reply was that they might not have been aware of it. But how was that possible? This is just one bank with many customer service reps. Don’t the employees communicate among themselves? Don’t the leaders inform their employees of a major glitch in a computer system? Am I the only person to whom they've sent a new MasterCard? Surely the IT department had informed the customer service reps of this problem so that they in turn could inform the bank’s customers of the same? But no. Apparently with all the means of communication available to them, they had not communicated to the service reps that this was a problem. Folks, this is 2017. What is the problem with these IT departments? Don’t they know how to communicate?

The end result of all my phone calls was that I now have three MasterCards with a misspelled last name that are completely unusable. I have no idea when I will receive a new card with a correctly-spelled last name because the female rep I spoke to had no idea when the problem would be solved. At least she was honest; I’ll give her that. But I did lodge a complaint, and it was this—that the bank could have informed its customers that the computer program responsible for creating new MasterCards was not functioning properly and that issuance of new cards would be delayed. What is so difficult about doing this? With all the means of communication at our disposal, there is no communication at all. Either people don’t care anymore, or they are too wrapped up in their smartphone apps to realize that customer service and real communication have gone down the drain. I don’t want to invest in any of this bank’s stock accounts, nor do I want to purchase any kind of insurance. I want my new MasterCard, and that is all. 

What's wrong with this picture?

I thought I was pretty much finished with writing posts about the stupidity that goes on generally in the workplace and more specifically in my workplace. I was wrong. I doubt I’ll ever be finished, because my workplace continually gives me something to write about.

Believe it or not, the researcher network that is available to scientists (non-MDs) at my hospital is so outdated that it is still using Windows XP to run the computers that were provided to us well over eight or nine years ago. Ditto for the screen, but at least it provides good resolution for the most part. Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft for starters; this is the message that Microsoft has posted on their website: “After 12 years, support for Windows XP ended April 8, 2014. Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or technical support for the Windows XP operating system. It is very important that customers and partners migrate to a modern operating system such as Windows 10”.

It’s got to be at least three years ago that the IT department at my hospital informed us that hospital network users (mostly MDs and a few researchers, myself included) would be getting new computers with the Windows 7 operating system. When I asked at that time what the IT department was planning to do concerning the researcher network that is used by research staff (mostly non-MDs) employed by external grant organizations and not the hospital, the answer was that they were working on a solution but were not there yet. They’re still not there. Most hospital network users received their new computers three years ago; I was not one of them. This past spring, I finally got a hospital computer, but I can understand why most researchers do not want one. The restrictions on what programs can be used/downloaded are major, even if one is only going to use PubMed to search for medical research articles. Permission from the IT department is needed for any software that they have not pre-approved for download. This makes it extremely difficult if not impossible to install any kind of demo software or to upgrade instrument software via the internet (the latter is an annual occurrence for most laboratory instruments). This means that each time we need upgraded software, an applications specialist has to come from whatever company sold us the instrumentation, and that person will charge for the time to travel as well as the time spent in our laboratory to install and test the upgrade. Is this saving the hospital money? The hospital IT department does not want the hospital network users to access the internet in ways that the department cannot control. While I can understand this approach to some degree, it makes it impossible to do extensive literature searches or to download upgrades to existing instrument software, etc.

Sadly, the researcher network hobbles along, but there will come a day (very soon) when it will all come crashing down around us. I am still running the CS2 version of Adobe Acrobat software (it reached version C6 and then Adobe moved to another platform). The CS2 version still works, but my hospital’s researcher network has ceased to provide the latest upgrades/licenses for Adobe software and other software packages highly-discounted/free to its employees as it did ten years ago. So those of us without research funding don’t have the possibility to upgrade any software. The researcher network was a good idea while it lasted; it provided the most useful software free to researchers, or sometimes for a nominal fee. I hardly remember those days; they’re gone forever. What we could count on were the network printers; they functioned well for the most part. Today we were informed that the network printers that most of our Windows XP computers use were moved to a new server. That meant that we lost the printer connections on the old server, where at least the connections worked (we were able to print articles, etc.). The move to the new server has crippled the researcher network since most of the computers are still running Windows XP and cannot seem to ‘see’ the connections to the new server. Translated that means that we cannot print articles, our manuscripts, work plans, etc. I ask you—why are we at work? At home, I have a relatively cheap Acer laptop that is running Windows 10 and all new Microsoft Office programs. It functions very well. I have a printer at home that I can connect to my laptop if I need to print anything. In short, I have a well-functioning home office. Is it any wonder that I prefer working at home?

What irritates me is the following: we hear all the time that the department/hospital doesn’t have the money to do this or that or that the priority is to save money at all costs. In my book, providing a well-functioning infrastructure to your employees is a no-brainer. It should be priority number one on the priority list. In 2017, computers and printers should work, not hang or freeze, and operating systems/software should be up-to-date. If the hospital doesn’t want to support the researcher network anymore, they should just say so and be done with it. This gradual wasting away/starvation project isn’t fooling anyone. But meanwhile, the leaders are still meeting at cushy hotels for two-day meetings/seminars that drain the existing meager budget even further. Apparently these meetings are very important, important enough that the leaders have to travel quite a distance in order to meet up. Bus transportation, hotel room costs, three-course dinners, etc.—my, my, there’s always money for those kinds of things. My question is: why can’t these meetings be held at the hospital for a total of one to two hours, where pressing issues are discussed and dealt with. Save the money it costs to house and feed a group of leaders for more important events such as increasing the salaries of the research staff or bettering the IT infrastructure of the research staff. Drop the annual department seminar for the same reason, and use the money to improve the IT infrastructure in the department. This is an obvious solution but it never seems to be chosen by the department leaders. I have to ask, why not?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Honeybee on sunflower

My sunflower plants have grown quite tall during the summer, and the bees have discovered them. Recently I managed to snap this photo of a honeybee on a sunflower with my iPhone. It amazes me that the quality of photos from the iPhone are so good. This was a lucky shot; many of my close-up photos are often slightly out of focus.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sunset at sea

Also taken from the ferry on our trip back to Oslo from Copenhagen......I love the path the sun makes on the water. Ever since I was a child, I have always wished I could walk on those paths toward the sun. Those thoughts have formed the basis of several poems that I have written over the years.

Rain shaft seen at sea

A rain shaft is one type of precipitation shaft; other types are hail or snow shafts. They appear as dark vertical shafts emanating from the clouds. We recently saw one such rain shaft at around 9 pm on our overnight ferry trip back to Oslo from Copenhagen. This shaft was not very wide but was a bit fuzzy. Although it was not raining at our location, it was clearly raining in a very localized spot over land to the left of the ferry (northeast Denmark). A strange weather phenomenon! I managed to get a few photos of it. The other interesting thing was that the clouds in the sky all seemed to level out at the same lower position, something I've never seen before. The natural world never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Some words of wisdom from Piet Hein

Piet Hein was a Danish mathematician, inventor, designer, and poet who was born in Copenhagen in 1905. He died at the age of 90. We were recently at a flow cytometry conference in Copenhagen, and written on one of the walls of our hotel room was one of Hein's short poems, entitled:

Det må vi efterligne (Kulturkritisk)

Kultur er evnen
til at leve livet,
så ny og ægte
livsform leves frem.
Den evne var
de store gamle givet
av hvilken grund
vi efterligner dem.

My translation from Danish into English; I hope that I have gotten the gist of the poem:

We must imitate (culture critical)

Culture is the ability
to live life,
so that new and genuine
life forms are created.
That ability was
the gift of the great old ones
and is the reason
we imitate them.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Some wonderful quotes about gardens

I think this is what hooks one to gardening: it is the closest one can come to being present at creation.
--Phyllis Theroux

The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.
--Gertrude Jekyll

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
--Marcus Tullius Cicero

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.
--William Blake

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.
--Alfred Austin

A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.
--Liberty Hyde Bailey

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.
--A. A. Milne

What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

A weed is but an unloved flower.
--Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odorless but all together perfume the air.
--Georges Bernanos

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.
--Gertrude Jekyll

Use plants to bring life.
--Douglas Wilson

Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.
--Alfred Austin

The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.
--George Bernard Shaw

No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.
--Thomas Jefferson

A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy.
--Luis Barragan

When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited.

There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder.
--Alfred Austin

Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.
--William Cowper

Weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.
--Marcelene Cox

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A truth about love

"Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding"
Norman Maclean, from A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

Monday, August 21, 2017

Back to the grind

And so it’s back to the grind after five weeks of summer vacation. Back to work after the wonderful freedom of not working. When I was a child in grammar school, I couldn’t wait for summer vacation to be over so that I could go back to school. It’s not that I didn’t like having the time off, it’s just that at some point it felt good to think about preparing for school again. When we were children, our job was to go to school and that was fine with me. I never experienced school as prison, like many of my fellow students. I felt pretty much the same way about high school and college; I enjoyed school and learning and felt privileged to be able to go to school. By the time I got to graduate school however, I was tired of rote education and felt the need to get out and work, to apply what I’d learned. I’ve been in the workforce for nearly forty years now, and most of those years have been interesting, motivating and productive. Motivation has dwindled however in the last five years or so, not because I lost interest in my research work, but because the research system changed into something I no longer recognized, with its emphasis on selling yourself, hyping your ideas, hiring and promoting extroverts, and networking ad nauseam. Since I am not an extrovert, and since I don’t feel comfortable around braggarts or bragging about my own work, I’ve pulled back and become an observer of what goes on around me. It’s been interesting to observe the rise and fall of the show-boaters. I suppose the pendulum will eventually swing back toward the middle, where it will be ok again to do your research work quietly, efficiently and well. I long for those days to return, but I doubt that they will before I retire. And that’s quite ok too. I’ve had a good run and it’s time for the younger scientists to take over. I have accepted this, but it’s actually interesting and somewhat humorous to see that others haven’t accepted this—I am still mentoring students, still running into the lab to answer questions, find something in the refrigerator, check out a lab procedure, and so forth. I no longer have funding for lab consumables, so I make do by utilizing antibodies and tissue sections that were bought and prepared several years ago. Who knew that I would be able to see into the future then and prepare for the drought? I was smart enough to prepare and it has paid off somewhat in the sense that I am not completely bereft of lab consumables. I just cannot purchase new ones, and the likelihood of getting funded at this point in time is slim. But as people say to me, ‘never say never’, even though deep down I hold out little hope of further funding.

So I look forward to retiring and only wish I could do so now instead of having to wait another three years. Three more years of grant application rejections, three more years of research article rejections, three more years of remaining patient in the face of a stupid uncaring system. Three more years of futile salary discussions in a system that has no budget to give its employees a lift (because most of the money is being used to pay the exorbitant salaries of the leaders who abound about us like rabbits). They multiply three-fold each year. We’re up to six levels of leadership now and I don’t have a clue as to what any of them do each day. Three more years of braggarts, of researchers with huge amounts of funding who don’t have a clue as to how the other half lives. I tell people the truth—I have no funding, zero, zip, nada. That’s how it goes, and I’m fine with it. I only wish I could exit stage left now.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

New York summer

I recently spent some time in the States visiting family and friends, traveling in Pennsylvania (right over the NY State border) and in New York. It occurred to me as I was writing this post that I used nearly all forms of transportation on this trip--plane, bus, train and car, just not a boat. I spent the first part of my trip in the Milford area in Pennsylvania (took a bus from the Port Authority bus station in Manhattan to Milford) visiting my sister and her husband. Milford PA is a lovely town with about a thousand residents--small town Americana--and is definitely worth visiting. It is not far from the Delaware River and the NY State border. I stayed at the Hotel Fauchere ( and can highly recommend it. My sister and I spent a day driving around the Milford area and through the small towns of Barryville, Narrowsburg, Kauneonga Lake, Bethel, and Middletown in New York--a lovely area in southwest NY State near the Delaware River bordering Pennsylvania. I then took a train from Port Jervis NY (about a fifteen-minute car ride from Milford) back to Manhattan. The Port Jervis train line passed through some lovely towns in NY State (Tuxedo comes to mind). Port Jervis is also a nice small town on the Delaware River, itself a very picturesque river. The train pulled into Secaucus NJ, where we disembarked, and then got on another train that took us to Manhattan's Penn Station. I met my cousin Karen for a very pleasant evening in Manhattan, which was extremely crowded with tourists the night we were there (I'm sure the lovely weather helped). We ate at a Korean barbecue restaurant in the Korean section of the city, stayed overnight, then the following day I took the train from Grand Central Station to North White Plains where I picked up a rental car and drove to the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Tarrytown. While in Tarrytown, I got together with some high school friends for dinner at Sunset Cove restaurant on the Hudson River, spent one day pleasantly wandering around Tarrytown and down memory lane with my friend Stef from childhood, and then spent another day with my friend Laura from high school wandering around the Lyndhurst estate. I then drove to Saratoga Springs to meet my friends Jean and Maria; Jean's family had rented the Haywood House in Saratoga Springs overlooking Lake Saratoga, and we enjoyed a couple of days there, before returning to Jean's house for the remainder of my visit, which is where I always love to be at the end of my visits to NY. I also visited a friend who is sick with a debilitating illness, and it was good to see her as it always is. Even though she is handicapped now, her sense of humor persists, as does her beauty. As always, my trip flew by too fast, but I have the wonderful memories to keep me going until next year's visit. I hope to be able to spend more time in New York in a few years when I retire. I am looking forward to that.

restaurant in the town of Kauneonga Lake

Lake Kauneonga 

my sister's garden

the lovely Delaware River photographed from the Port Jervis NY side

the lovely Hudson River photographed from Rockwood Hall State Park 

an annual cicada at Rockwood

the almost-completed new Tappan Zee Bridge photographed from Sunset Cove restaurant

the lovely rose garden at the Lyndhurst estate

a view of Lake Saratoga

Lake Saratoga at dusk

the historic Haywood House in Saratoga Springs

the Hudson River photographed from the Boscobel estate in Garrison NY (you can see West Point academy top right) 

the always lovely Tarrytown Lakes--we used to ice-skate here in winter when we were children 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A good song for summer 2017

Haven't posted in a while because I've been away on vacation.....Heard this song for the first time tonight. Catchy song, good rhythm, one you can sing along and dance to. What more do you need from a good song? Calvin Harris does it again--the man with the Midas touch. The song is called 'Feels' and features Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Remembering my father on his birthday

Today, July 25th, is my father's birthday, as well as the birthday of my cousin and my good friend from childhood. Had my father still been alive, he would have been one hundred years old next year. But generally, I never think of people just in terms of their age. My father is not a centenarian in my memory, he is my ageless father--a kind man, a smart man, a civilized man, a WWII veteran, a good father and husband. He kept his faith alive throughout his entire life and nurtured it by reading spiritual literature. He was loyal to his birth family and loyal to his wife and children. He did what it took to keep us clothed and fed and safe. That was what men did in my father's generation. They took care of their wives and children. They took that responsibility seriously, and my father was no exception. He was about as far from a narcissist as you could get. I cannot for the life of me picture him running around with a smart phone in his hand, checking his email or Facebook every hour or so, or posting selfies. I can just picture his pithy comments about modern society's cell phone addiction. He would never have gone down that road. He would rather have picked up a good book and devoted his hard-earned free time to reading. His comments always made me think, and still do. I often wonder what my father (and mother) would have done in certain situations that I face. My mother always said 'pick your battles'. My father might have said 'why battle at all'. He preferred the peaceful approach if it could be had. I admire him for that. After all, he saw what war could do to people and I'm sure he saw things he would rather not have seen. His heart and soul remained intact, as did his gentle spirit. I miss him today and every day, as I miss my mother. They are forever a part of me.