Showing posts from December, 2016

Little house in the big woods

"But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.  She thought to herself, This is now .  She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”   - Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House in the Big Woods Right now, I am on the living room couch at parents' cottage in northern Michigan. The newly-decorated Christmas tree is glowing to my right. My brother is clad in his team's colors, watching a football game. Dad and I are clacking on our laptops. Mom is somewhere upstairs.  It's my tradition to spend Christmas at the cottage, and this year is no different. Wel

The Messiah

From his podium in the center of the room, John waved his arms to get everyone's attention. There was a row of wind players seated behind him, a harpsichordist facing him directly in front. I was in the first violin section, off to his left. The pews were filled with people - sopranos and altos in the front, tenors and basses behind. A handful of onlookers were seated in the balcony. Director John Yankee leads the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, Falmouth Chorale, and community members in a warm-up I was astounded by the sheer number of people that had shown up. I had no idea there were so many musicians in, of all places, Falmouth, Massachusetts. Every year around Christmas, the Falmouth Chorale and Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra invite the community to participate in a reading (they call it a "community sing") of Handel's Messiah . The Messiah is an oratorio, a massive work for choir and orchestra. The 50+ movements tell the story of Jesus Christ, from

The journeyman

Way back in the day (and in some places still nowadays), people learned marketable skills through apprenticeships. They worked under the direct tutelage of a master, observing and absorbing skills as they went. I've compared graduate school to an apprenticeship in the past, and I still believe that science, for all of its fanfare and academic regalia, boils down to an apprenticeship system. A recently-graduated apprentice does not become a master straight away. First, they must hone their skills and develop their own unique style. In the Middle Ages, apprentices who had recently finished their training traveled the countryside, seeking work wherever they could find it. I suppose nowadays we would call them free-lancers, but the proper term is actually "journeymen." Friends, if graduate school is an apprenticeship, then a post-doc is a journeyman - one who has spent years observing a master, has completed all the required training, but is still not a master themselves


"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." - Robert Louis Stevenson It's a gray day in Woods Hole, and I can see the thick, pale clouds covering the sky out my office window. They form a solid canopy, wrapping my world. My succession experiment won't really take off until the spring, so in the meantime, I'm getting prepared. I'm reading. I'm planning. I'm playing around with new ideas, and I'm networking. WHOI is actually an incredible place to network. The scientific caliber here is extremely high, but the culture is also very open. Every time I meet someone new, they are genuinely interested in hearing about my work and freely tell me about theirs. I've made several connections with other post-docs and scientists at WHOI. There's the senior scientist who taught me how to identify local tunicate species and the PhD student who could teach me a new analysis technique. There's a physical oc

Boston in the fall: Part 2

"Well I've never licked a spark plug And I've never sniffed a stink bug And I've never painted daisies on a big red rubber ball And I've never bathed in yogurt And I don't look good in leggings And I've never been to Boston in the fall" - "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" from the childrens' series Veggie Tales Statue of John Harvard on the campus that bears his name.  Apparently it's lucky to rub his left shoe. On our second day in Boston, Stefanie and I took a short ride to Cambridge to see the campus of Harvard University. I had been to Harvard once before but never had much of a chance to look around. I've got to admit - the atmosphere on the campus lives up to Harvard's grand reputation. Most buildings were red brick and surrounded by deciduous trees. Some of the larger ones had columns and inscriptions along the top edge. Stefanie and I both wanted to find the Science Center (naturally) but laughed wh

Boston in the fall

"Well, I've never plucked a rooster And I'm not too good at ping-pong And I've never thrown my mashed potatoes up against the wall And I've never kissed a chipmunk And I've never gotten head lice And I've never been to Boston in the fall" - "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" from the childrens' series Veggie Tales Stefanie and I in Boston Commons The above song quote is absolutely ridiculous but perfectly fitting. Because guess what! I have now officially been to Boston in the fall. I met up with my dear friend, Stefanie, in the city for the weekend. Stef and I met on a research cruise in the Arctic in 2011, and we've spent the past five years bouncing around the world for our research. We try to meet up whenever we're on the same continent, and it usually works out once a year. Stefanie's been working with collaborators in Montreal for a few weeks, so we decided to take advantage of our (relative) geograp