Monday, November 26, 2007

Back to Work

I made the drive today, leaving my parents' after capturing a much-aggrieved kitten who was locked out of the basement as well as all bedrooms. His sounds are so frustrated and mournful when he realizes he has to go in the car. Poor Sprout. Chienne, conversely, is always happy to bounce right into the seat to make the trips.

I felt awful on the ride - my head ached dully and my stomach rolled sickly. I listened to the end of one audiobook then turned off the radio to let the story settle. I started another story, desperate to make the time pass with some distraction since I felt so physically bad. I finally turned it off and wished fervently that I had an option other than to press on for several more hours until I reached my house and the animals and I could emerge from the car. I found myself thinking of work, busying my mind with thoughts of analyses and papers and things left to do and was surprised at how completely I was consumed by those thoughts. I'm strangely happy doing what I do lately.

"I'll be right back." I told Little One while we were watching Harold and the Purple Crayon one night in the back bedroom. "I want to set something up on my computer." She let me leave without a complaint while I asked Matlab to run several hours worth of code. I returned soon after with a sippy cup full of juice and she cuddled against me again while we watched Harold throw a birthday party for his friends.

Smallest One curled against my chest on a pillow while I explained my job to her one night. She's still young enough that she likes the sound of the words rather than being bored by their meaning. I arranged her carefully and moved by head to peer around her to stare at the screen I'd left open on the end table. "So if I push this button here, we can normalize everything. That takes a little while, so you can nap or we can sing while that works." I told her. She blinked her eyes but failed to look overly excited when I told her that later we could check the quality.

"Put the computer away!" Mom said when I complained of a headache. "You're on it all the time!"

"I am not." I said, looking up in surprise. "Just when we're out here watching TV. And I'm working. Or writing. Or playing."

"That's why you have headaches." She said, shaking her head.

"Well, then I see a lot of headaches in my future." I muttered. "A lot of my life is on here." I did accomplish several things at home. I wrote the abstract for my interview talk and sent it. I wrote an IRB protocol and sent it to Boss. I figured out yet another problem with this analysis and set things up so I could deal with my files when I returned home.

Now - in my house that's kept 10 degrees cooler than the one up north - I immediately began moving stuff off external storage and answering email, thrilling to news that people had read my paper and had comments. Quiet Mentor wants a lot of text cut - he selected four paragraphs to delete and left it to me to shorten a discussion I already called concise. He wants to teach me to write and outline papers for Nature. I snorted at the very thought, but I appreciate the gesture and will talk with him this week. But if we can shorten this enough to do to an upper level clinical journal, I'll be beside myself with joy. It's far higher than I would have hoped.

I looked through his extensive comments, making my way through all the tracked changes, and reminded myself that he said it was a good first draft. I'm not incompetent - I just have more left to learn. And while I wish I was farther along sometimes, I rather like getting co-author input. I also take particular care when going through comments from senior scientists - notice where they change paragraph order (I'm getting better at that - Quiet Mentor only moved one small section of text) and what information they cut (I still struggle with that - I'm overly wordy and even when I cut text, it hurts me because I feel it's important and relevant and someone might want to know it!). I've set up meetings for this paper and started to work on my talk that I'm actually getting excited about giving.

I also got a request from a major British funding agency with a request for an expert review for an application they received. I was flattered and very much wanted to agree. I read the attached abstract and was shocked that I know what they're trying to do. I even know how I think it should be done! I can provide an opinion that is semi-knowledgeable! I wouldn't go so far as 'expert' but I think I might have some insight! So perhaps it is coming along even if progress is slow. Which might explain why I'm so eager to get back to it.


Psycgirl said...

Wow Katie! An expert reviewer - that's a big honor. You must be doing something right!

Wayfarer Scientista said...

"just while the tv is on". And who is to say that the tv is not an equal creator of headaches? And that having both on at the same time may be a frazzle?

Quiche said...

You ARE an expert and that is totally exciting.

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