Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Goodness, but I spend a lot of time online. I’m really noticing now that I have to dial in, and watch billable minutes tick by in the corner of my screen. I decided I deserved a laptop from some of my misc. fellowship funding, so I bought mine in June. Actually, on June 1, the exact date the fellowship grant rolled over and I had money to spend, I arrived at the tech store bright and early, parked illegally, and filled out paperwork to bring my shiny new PowerBook home.

I named him Nick (so his full name is Nick Mac – cute, right?!), and have built a rather unhealthy relationship with him. I was home last week, and had been doing some reading when I decided to take a break and see what some people were saying in their lovely little blogs. But the light that brightens and dims on Nick’s side wasn’t on.

“Nick?” I said fearfully. Picking him up and pushing the screen up. Tapping the space bar multiple times, frantically trying to wake him. I plugged him in, then pressed the power button. Firmly. For a long time. Nothing.

So I put him carefully on the table, jiggled the power cord to make sure he was recharging, and sat on the couch. I had my feet flat on the floor, hands folded in my lap, looking solemnly at Nick as he sat silently, no little light to tell me he was sleeping. I was able to wait a full 4 minutes before opening the little silver laptop and pressing the power button again. And Nick came back, albeit without my address book, and let me read blogs, compose my own entries, edit my IRB form – all the critical things which must happen to maintain my normal life.

I smiled at myself as I waited for the log in screen to appear. I quickly sent an email to a friend when Nick was back up and running. I think I have a problem. I wrote. I panicked when Nick wouldn’t start – I felt sick to my stomach thinking about how I wouldn’t be able to write and read and research in my living room like I love to do. So you may have to reply to me care of some sort of Mac dependency rehab program. But I’ll have to find one with excellent wireless internet service.

In fact, rather than curtailing my reliance on Nick, I’ve decided he needs a friend. So I’m planning to buy myself a belated graduation gift. A snazzy little iPod which will back up Nick’s data. Apparently this will also allow me to listen to music, rendering my radio habit obsolete, and watch video. I already watch quite a bit of television so that feature is probably not going to enrich my life. Decrease my productivity, yes. And I’m sure that soon upon receiving it, I’ll have no idea how I was able to live without one for so long.

Here at home, Nick offers some comfort. A place to sit and write – get feelings on paper so they don’t swirl inside, creating an ugly mess. I adore my family, but we’re not always nice people. Quick to judge and deem people lacking, negative thoughts creep in and I often allow them to fester. When I write things out though, I can see them more clearly.
That’s not right, I often think. I don’t really feel that way – there’s another side to this story and it too deserves some room on the page. So as I’m writing something that I feel comfortable publishing, I often figure things out for myself. In the event that I do write something crappy, I either file it away to deal with later, or put it out there to release some of the anger. Either way, I hope I’m presenting something of some value. And as I go over some archives, I think it’s helping me.

While I’m here though, I'm completely in the moment. Watching re-runs of TV shows and laughing hard because I didn’t notice the subtle humor the first time – distracted by email and internet. Cleaning the house without stopping to see what people are saying about the transit strike in New York, though I am curious. Picking up various items and putting them away, wiping away the light coating of dust that’s accumulated since Mom cleaned last week, vacuuming the bits of kibble that dogs (one mine, one Brother's) have scattered throughout the house. Carefully placing play dishes in the play kitchen so the little one is able to scatter them yet again tomorrow when she comes.

I composed entries the whole time I cleaned, updating the mental list of what needed to be wiped free of fingerprints, made piles of mail to be sorted, books to go to the office, shoes to distribute to various bedrooms. But the fleeting thoughts didn’t appear on my screen here – I was busy trying to accomplish something – establish some much needed sparkle in my family’s holiday.

I do what I can – react to the circumstances that have presented themselves on this visit home – and try to do something to improve the situation. I clean so Mom will smile and give me a hug of gratitude. I call Brother to make sure he’s OK, not knowing how to make him smile. I sit in the living room with Dad when he arrives home from work, eager to tell me joke he heard. Today it was a vet joke about “cat scans” and “lab work”. I enjoyed a lot more than yesterday’s dirty blonde joke. And me? I long for my wireless router, and the distractions of reading other people's words rather than being stuck trying to write my own. I miss work, and feeling productive and competent. I crave the quiet – being responsible for nobody’s happiness and well-being but my own.

I do love my parents and fervently wish for Brother to find his path to a happy future. He’s struggling again today, but that’s a different entry. But it’s getting old, and I’m starting to count down the days until I can pack the car, load up the dog, and head back to my place. I wonder if that should make me feel guilty.


Wise Crow said...


Just discovered your blog the other day via a series of links through science blogs. I love your writing - you have a real talent for it. If the post-doc and academia don't work out, you definitely have something to fall back on. I especially enjoyed the Gabe series. It was pretty gutsy to write about the authorship thing - I hope you're not "dooced" by it (and hopefully you know that term in blogland). Good luck with the coming career in academia or research. I'll look forward to reading about it.

post-doc said...

Wise crow-

You're very kind, so thank you for the writing compliments. I haven't done much of it for a few years now, so I'm still testing the water.

I do know the dooced term, and there were actually enough clues already for anyone I worked with to know who I am. I decided against having a blog for years because of that very reason. The Gabe series seemed more gutsy to me (though in a different way), so after that, it's been a bit too easy to put almost anything here.

I'm glad you're around (and really liked the bird photos at your site). Thanks for commenting!

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