Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Snippets of Work-Related Nonsense

Once again my desktop has been littered with work rather than blog posts or book chapters (of the fun type). I did take out the actual book chapter today, made the corrections Friend helpfully noted with a pink pen (so much friendlier than red, I think) and scowled at EndNote. It is a powerful tool, but I’ve no idea why it decided to flub up the formatting of some of my references. I fixed them by hand, saved the document, then took it to the PC in my office. EndNote isn’t installed there so it can’t reformat away from my pretty copy. I shall send the final version from that computer to the publisher – I think I’ll do that later this week and see what happens. It’s my first experience with penning a real chapter, so I’m unsure as to the next stage of such an endeavor.

I received an email last week announcing a call for abstracts. I hadn’t heard of the conference, so I was about to delete it when I decided I was bored enough to glance it over. It turns out this group is focused on exactly what I hope to do. It might as well be called the IGOPWDWKTII (International Group of People Who Do What Katie Thinks Is Important, as if it wasn’t obvious.) They went with a different name for some reason, but the two projects which currently occupy so much of my time would fit beautifully with their proposed program.

Given that I was just recently lamenting that I acquired data at exactly the wrong time of year – conferences are held in the spring so abstracts were due in the fall – an opportunity to present my work to a highly-relevant audience was dropped in my lap. So I’ve been processing data and capturing images and playing in Photoshop in order to create abstracts for this meeting. It’s all quite…well, boring. Which also explains the blog silence. Unless you want to hear about how I tricked EndNote or love Photoshop or was thwarted by UsefulProgram, I don’t have a lot to say.

Dr. Icing was thrilled with his project’s abstract, but he’s good like that. All optimistic excitement, even when things are going to hell. Since I’m more of an “oh, bother. What’s going to go wrong now?” type of personality, it was only a matter of time before we started to bug each other. But we do try to get along and have a mutual appreciation of talents and personalities going on.

Tomorrow – Day O’ Meetings
Quiet Mentor is harder to figure out, largely because he’s so, well, quiet. I ran into him the other day while meeting with a new patient. He stopped, smiled and shook my hand. Several days later I got email from his secretary requesting a meeting. So I’ve been preparing documentation for tomorrow at 9AM. I’ll go sit in his gigantic office with the pretty sitting area – he generally takes the sofa while leaving the graceful armchairs to visitors.

In a rather serendipitous event, Boss asked me to present at group meeting again. So I can use the Quiet Mentor data twice. I should point out that presenting so often is a minor annoyance. I realized that of all the postdocs in my cohort, I’m the only one who works quite closely with Boss. I rather like it though – he’s smart and resourceful and very helpful. But he keeps closer track of me than the others, meaning I take more turns at journal club because I mention cool articles I’ve read. I get to present almost every other meeting lately because he knows I’ve been collecting data. And it’s good – I should present data to a bunch of faculty members to ask good questions and offer interesting suggestions! It’s a valuable opportunity and not every mentor provides pizza to lure the department to meetings so his post-docs get a lot of attention. But it does take time to prepare! Isn’t it someone else’s turn?!

I’m the only one doing clinical work though. I have the results from actual humans with actual cancer. So people are rather interested in that – it’s highly relevant right now rather than something that might work out in the next 5 years if all goes well. And the slides (all 40 of them) are done apart from a couple of images I forgot to load on my USB drive. I should get excellent feedback tomorrow that lead to even more work. Lovely, I sigh tiredly.

Ruck the Fetreat
I recently received a less than exciting email announcing the polar bear retreat. I skipped it last year – the last time I saw Winnie before she died, she was talking about how harshly her abstract formatting was criticized. It hurt her feelings and I was rather offended at the petty nature of the complaints. I mean, honestly.

This year, there are the standard requests: Margins must be correct! Only one author! No affiliations! Must make up a polar bear name, but nothing like Snowball or Cupcake! No color figures! Submit abstract while you're upside down, but standing on one hand, not two!

And this year – to cut down on the rehashing of old work – you can’t submit anything that’s already been done. It can only be proposed work. This actually works in my favor. I have all sorts of stuff I’ve planned but haven’t started! The polar bears have finally played directly into my comfort zone. Actual work? Um… Proposed work? I have all kinds of that!!

But I will never understand the idea of traveling 4-5 hours and staying at a hotel to see people we work with every day. Which is why I skipped it last year and might do so again this year. But I actually rather like the idea of presenting work not yet done. No data – just ideas, thoughts, hypotheses that might not pan out. I think the input gained would be valuable and the room for truly creative thinking would be huge. So good plan on that one, polar bears. You still freak me out – the potential for biting or clawing remains high, after all – but I do think you’re on the right track with this one.

Bored and boring
So that's about it. Abstracts and email and meetings. Maybe something mildly entertaining will occur at a meeting tomorrow and I can tell you about that. Here's hoping!


LeRoy Dissing said...

Well you have activity going on around you even though you consider it boring....hmmmm wonder what that say? Name for a polar bear, eh? If it were a penguin, it might be easier - like chilly willy. I am sure something will come up. Enjoy your day tomorrow and look forward to hearing about it!

ScienceWoman said...

Actually I found your work-related snippets to be quite amusing. (And I wouldn't mind end-note or photoshop tricks either.)

joy said...

IGOPWDWKTII? LoL Katie, I was waiting for a really technical explanation for this acronym. You are funny! :)

Alethea said...

Oh yes, and believe me that after the postdoc when you drift into that first long-sought position, it's more of the same. Same stupid retreats in god-awful places on precious weekends you were hoping to spend with your family. Same computer gripes. Same nasty and supportive comments by senior colleagues. Keep your chin up - it's great to hear someone write about what I'm living (in agreement with sciencewoman).

post-doc said...

I'll try to enjoy the day - we'll see how it goes.

You're kind - thank you. I'll see if I can pull my limited software knowledge together someday.

I'm glad it made you smile. :)

Great! Something to look forward to! :) My chin is up for now, but I haven't yet left for work.

Anonymous said...

You want to hear the epitome of work retreat ridiculousness? I got married the weekend of said work retreat. PI called it "an unfortunate coincidence". WTF??? Oh, and PI forbade any co-workers to attend. Stellar.

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