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Sweet Sister Mercy

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Tuesday, October 20 2015

Deep-Fried Smelly Old Socks

I have been invited to give a talk at a workshop in a scientific community that I don't know well (and that I would have described as only tangentially related to mine before discovering I knew two of the research groups that were present).

A number of things have irked me.

Continue reading...

Monday, December 17 2012

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

More than half the reactions to the I am Adam Lanza's mother piece I see are of the "Please help this woman get her child committed" variety.

It's fascinating how an article that I've seen shared by people claiming to advocate for better mental care and fighting the stigma against mental diseases actually ends up reinforcing the stereotype of mentally sick = violent = budding mass murderer / serial killer.

So, a few things.

(1) As far as I know, we have no idea what kind of mental troubles Adam Lanza had or didn't have.

(2) No, not every child that's prone to violent outbursts is going to become a mass murderer.

(3) Actually, most people with mental illness are more likely to be the victim than the perpetrator of violence. Tadaaa!

(4) I've never been violent myself, but boy am I glad that none of my parents thought it a good idea, back when I was thirteen, to write for the world to see about how horrible it was to deal with me and how I was going to become a violent killer.

(5) What does the kid think of all that? Who knows? Who cares? From this article, not his mother.

(6) P.S. Adam Lanza had a father.

Saturday, October 20 2012

Hello! I'm Right in Front of You

I am sitting at dinner with researchers. To my right, a professor who collaborates with all of us to some extent. To his right, a guy from Northern Germany. Across from us, three Japanese men. Our host is from Eastern Europe. "I quite enjoy working with Japanese people," says the professor. 'In the future, I'm envisioning collaborating only with Japanese and Bavarian scientists."

I am having coffee with colleagues. "I always look at people's A levels before I hire them. I don't trust people with poor A levels to become researchers," says one of them. I slowly sip up my coffee, wondering whether I should remind him that my A levels were piss poor (but better than those of at least one of his students).

I am drinking beer with people from the department. "It's a pity most of the new female PhD students are so ugly," says one of them. "Although pretty girls have it so easy, everything falling in their open arms... until they turn 30," he adds while I choke on my Beck's. "Do you mean I'm ugly or do you mean I don't deserve being where I am?" I ask. He laughs it away. (But of course, this is an isolated incident and us women and feminists are getting our collective panties in a hysterical bunch over absolutely nothing instead of worrying about serious things such as war rape and world hunger.)

This thing you do, with your brain, that supposedly got you to where you are right now, a respected member of the scientific community, with a truckload of prestigious degrees and insightful publications to back you up? Would you really mind applying it to everyday conversation as well? Or is empathy so completely out of your range of skills that there's no hope you'll ever realize you're being offensive?

Monday, June 11 2012

In Which I Read a Women's Magazine

I went to get my hair cut and the stylist who welcomed me in had me sit at a table with nothing else to entertain myself than my reflection in the mirror, the radio blasting I Won't Give Up (and who's singing I don't wanna to be someone who walks away so easily I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can maaaaaake at the top of her voice now ?), and the April issue of Maxi.

So I started browsing through Maxi, my first German women's mag ever I think. By the time she was ready to butcher my hair, I had actually read most of that thing. So here's some of what I encountered today:

Continue reading...

Saturday, January 15 2011

Note to Photographers

1. Turn the beeping sounds of your camera off. It's useless, it's annoying (especially when there are thirty beeping cameras in the same touristic place), and it's a dead give away when you try to take pictures in places where it's forbidden.

2. You have two hands (generally). Hold the camera with both hands. It's amazing how much more stable it is.

3. You might not be aware of it, but your compact digital camera has an autofocus. Press half-way to focus, then all the way to take the picture.

4. Learn when you might need your flash and when there's no chance in hell it's useful. Of course you run out of battery, you've spend the entire day shooting at faraway landscapes with the flash on.

5. If you've failed to apply points 2 and 3, please refrain from uploading a bash of 170 mostly blurry and out-of-focus pictures to Facebook.

6. No, I don't want you to take a blurry, out-of-focus picture of me in front of the breath-taking landscape / historical monument. On the other hand, it would be great if you could get out of the way so that I can try to make a decent picture out of it.

This post was brought to you by repeated and close proximity with people who don't seem to be able to know whether their camera is up or down, and the misplaced sense of superiority I derive from having a vague idea of what ISO is.

Tuesday, June 29 2010

For Emma

Emma over at Belgian Waffle asked her readers for a drawing of their ideal summer.

Upon which I bring you, drawn in GNUPaint, using my brand new graphic tablet, with my brand new splint and really, really quickly in order to spare my carpal tunnel, My Ideal Summer, by Krazy Kitty (25 1/2).

Continue reading...

Sunday, April 25 2010

Pointless Sunday Night Rant

I just saw a brand new Facebook group named "I want to graduate", described as "for all the phd students who want to graduate".

I am dumbstruck. What, we want to graduate, now? I thought the whole point was to remain an underpaid, unrecognized, lowly student forever, and ever, and ever? Who on Earth starts an educational program with in mind the idea of graduating from it? I thought graduating was a punishment!

Next thing you know, someone will create a Facebook cause out of that. And maybe even a political movement! Let students graduate! That's actually what they want!

Yes, I know that 97.3% of all Facebook groups are utterly pointless, and meant for people to shout their oh so controversial views (such as, enjoying baths, liking naps better than work, disliking war and hunger and world poverty, finding kitties super duper cute, hating mean customers, etc.) to the world.

Yes, I know I'm ranting a lot at Facebook these days, probably because (a) I've recently added a lot of people I need to be able to contact although they're never going to be friends and I can't hide updates about their activities fast enough and (b) I'm tired of wondering, each time I upload a picture or write a few words on their website, to whom they're planning to sell it.

Yes, I'm probably irritated beyond any reasonable measure.

But seriously, there's no fucking point. Graduate students want to graduate! Hold the presses! Call the President! It's not informative, it's not witty, it's not even remotely amusing, it's just polluting my time line and proving that if I ruled the world you who joined that group, and especially you, who created it, would never, ever deserve to be called a Doctor of Philosophy (from, you know, philo, loving, and sophia, wisdom).

Also, it's spelled "PhD", doofus.

Wednesday, February 17 2010

Friends With Benefits

Recently, an alumni from my lab visited us and gave a (very nice, I must say) talk about his work, which was followed by a discussion session between him and us students.

There was a rather unreal moment during which he, born and raised in Southern California and having never left it before eight months ago, advocated for traveling and exploring new locations in front of a room full of expatriates and people having moved from various places in the US to join our university. But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

This guy has always been passionate about science. I actually don't think I've ever met anybody who was as excited by new ideas and results as him. So that was a recurring theme in his speech; how a PhD was the opportunity of falling in love with science; how academia would not let you down if you really loved science.

Which led me to wonder.

Do I love science?

I like it. I like it a lot. There are times when it makes me prance around high-fiving my labmates, but there are also times when it makes me cry, and, more to the point, times when I'm just, meh, beautiful day isn't it, seen any good movie recently?

I get passionate about it, certainly. But do I get passionate enough? Isn't science less of the love of my life and more of a booty call? Picture me in my lab's corridor, yelling at a labmate: "but what if science is just a fucking buddy? Shall I still go for it?" Yes, the guys are considering keeping a bottle of cognac in the lab to help deal with my last year — I'm not quite sure whether they plan to make me drink to calm me down, or drink themselves to bear with me. Probably both.

So I'm having this stupid argument with science, trying to figure out how much exactly I love it, in the best "it's not you, it's me" tradition. Except that science doesn't even talk back.


Tuesday, January 26 2010

Pub Conversations II

Of Fathers

"I got emancipated from my father as soon as it was legally possible," the young woman said. "And then I was mostly raised by nannies, until my deeply religious, conservative, anti-feminist mother decided it was time she took care of me. I might have preferred living with my father."

The two other women nodded in silence.

"I seem to see so many happy families around me," she added, "and then I wonder, is it really possible?"

"We had a happy family," one of her friends replied. "And then my mother died."

"Oh, we had a happy family as well," the third woman added after a pause. "And then we found out my father had had a second family on the side for fifteen years. And he liked them better."

The young man with them put his glass down.

"Oh, wow."

I know. Most (probably all) families are fucked up one way or another. See for example over there.

Sunday, January 24 2010

Pub Conversations I

Of Women's Worth

"I don't really want to hang out with that side of the family," the Asian woman with a British accent said. "They always ask why I want to go for a PhD, how am I going to find a husband, especially as haven't I been putting on a little bit of weight lately?"

"My family is more subtle," replied the European sounding woman. "They just always make comments on how nicer I look after I lose weight. Except that I don't lose weight, I just gain confidence in myself. The women in my family are all rather progressive, but most of them are still unconsciously super focused on women's appearance..."

"... because you need to get yourself a husband and keep him. Oh, icky," interrupted the first woman.

"My grandma used to send me cookies when I moved away from home," the young, definitely American man who was with them said. "So once I thanked her for it at a family gathering, and my sister asked whether she could have some as well. My grandma got up, pinched my sister's cheek, and said, 'oh, darling, we love you just like you are', which was probably the most passive aggressive thing I ever heard."

Isn't it great when people from such diverse origins find a common ground of shared experiences?

- page 1 of 2

I read

Mostly detective stories. Occassionally, weird fantasy, theater, or Chinese literature in Italian (I have fantastic friends), real well-written books.

I listen to

Mof Montreal, Caravan Palace, the Ditty Bops, Dango Reinhardt, the National, Minor Majority, Léo Ferré, Beethoven, Sonny Rollins, Laura Marling, Erlend Øye, Hjaltalin, Sufjan Stevens, Yuri Bashmet. And others.

I am

late, I'm late, I'm late for a very important date, delighted by Oscar Wilde (One should always be a little improbable), a little improbable, still very much of a bloody leftist, heathen atheist, and a woman scientist.

Deep Thought

'To leave is to die a little. But to die is to leave a lot' (translated from French)
[Alphonse Allais]

(Almost) Legal Mentions

(Dammit this one joke only works in French. You're missing out.)
Not recommended for children under 36 months.
Please handle carefully.
Beware of the kitty.
Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.*
* Strike out if inapplicable