Saturday, 6 December 2014

The anatomy of an academic paper

By: Kelsey Mulder (Impressive Institution) and other people I know (Other Impressive Institutions)

What I study is extremely important. Everyone else who has attempted to study it so far has done so wrong (Enemy at Competing Institution, 2014) or has left out some pretty important stuff (Other People I Know and Like, 2014).

Data and Methods
I know a lot of acronyms. Like seriously. Count them all.

You probably won't understand a lot of what I go on about here, and it's likely that you'll skip this part and look at the pretty pictures. I designed it this way. Move along.

They sure look good and straightforward now, but you should have seen versions 1--27.

Musings and irresponsible speculations. This will be cited in introductions to come.

I threw my toaster across the room when I got my reviews back, but everybody else thanks their reviewers, so I probably should too.

I probably skimmed most of these.

I really wish real academic journal articles took me as little time to write as this blog post!

Friday, 19 September 2014

On work/life balance

Academia is one of those careers where your work is never done. There's always more to read, more to write, more figures to compile...the list goes on. On top of that, there seems to be this push for a 20-hour/7-day work schedule. At least that's been my experience. It's no surprise a lot of people in academia are talking about work-life balance.

Personally, I've struggled a lot with this balance over the past couple years. In fact, about a year ago after my first year viva, I promised to address this problem by working hard at work and playing hard at home. It's time I let you know how it's been going.

My first change was to adopt a 40-hour work week. Because I have a partner who does shift work and I have a flexible schedule, I've adopted his work week, which intermingles shifts from 7:30a--4:30p, 10:30a--6:30p, and 1:30p--10:30p. That way we see more of each other and we get talk about our days on our walks to and home from work.

My second change was to adopt a work-only-at-work policy and vow to never take work home with me.

My third change was to adopt the pomodoro for 25 minutes, break for 5 and so on.

Next came a big question...what do I do with my spare time?

Well, I decided along with this work change, I should adopt a lifestyle less of what I shouldn't, eat more of what I should, and start exercising regularly. Beside that, I decided to join the library and start reading what I want to read.

So how has it turned out?

Well at first, there was a bit of guilt about not working constantly, but I've found that now I work smarter. While at work, I get a lot more done. I am not fatigued by working 12 hour days, which means I can have 5 very productive work days in a row rather than having every other day be productive. On top of the work improvements, I've lost nearly 30 pounds, I'm happier, have more energy, get over sicknesses faster, and don't go to bed facing panic attacks.

So in short, I'm pleased with the changes I've made. No, I'm probably never going to be the best atmospheric scientist with the most publications and the most impressive resume, but as my mom the hospice chaplain kindly pointed out, there isn't a person yet who, on their deathbed, has commented that they wish they worked more in their life.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

You call that a conference?!?

Again I find myself reflecting on how stinking lucky I am.

Seriously, who gets to go to an exotic Greek Island for a conference?

A few weeks ago I flew off to Crete, Greece to go talk about tornadoes (and maybe relax a bit on the beach). I won't bore you with the tornado stuff, but instead focus on my true love: food and drink! (Sorry, Richard!)

First of all, the structure of all the dinners included many bottles of local Cretan red and white wine (which were all fantastic!) dotting the tables, which were seemingly bottomless. I swear, we must have each had a bottle or two of wine every night, but magically never got drunk.

Dish after dish after dish of almost tapas style delicacies were delivered to the table in a 2-3-hour long banquet. One constant was the local traditional "dakos" (confused in name only with tacos), which was basically bruchetta...a crispy bread topped with tomatoes, olive oil, and local soft cheese.

(Dakos are the top, center dish above)

The rest of the dishes heavily featured real Greek yogurt, stuffed grape leaves, cucumber, octopus (YUM!), eggplant, bacon, sautéed greens, and cheese. No complaints from me!

Then the main dish would come right around the time we were ready to burst. Almost always, it was roast lamb and potatoes. Dear Lord the meat melted off the bone and right into my stomach. Makes my mouth water again just thinking about it.

There was dessert every night with a side of fresh fruit, sometimes flaming fruit.

And what dessert would be complete without another alcoholic beverage? We got raki with every meal. It's similar to grappa, distilled from the remains of the grapes from the wine making process, and tastes similar to a plum gin. Absolutely delicious. Great use of spent grapes AND it apparently aids in digestion too. Bottoms up!

But I think the best part of the food and culture of Crete was seeing the food growing all around us. One night, we dined underneath lemon and orange trees. Another night, we sat on a balcony overlooking endless olive groves. Definitely a treat for this Colorado girl!

So would I go back? Most certainly! And even if all I ate were gyros, I'd be a very happy girl.

Oh yeah and the conference was good too.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Beer. Beautiful beer.

I can't stop thinking how lucky I am. I got the longest holiday season I've ever had. 

This year was the first year I spent Christmas away from the family and while it was hard to be away for the most special time of year, I got to spend it with the man candy for the first time in 3 years. Also, thanks to Skype, I got to be part of Christmas breakfast and Christmas lunch with my family. I also got to enjoy the beauty that is Boxing Day. Oh Boxing Day many bargains with less shoving and shootings than Black Friday. And then, when everyone was back to the grind, I got a second holiday season at home in Colorado with the family, snow and all. 

When I got back to Manchester and everything settled down, Richard and I focused on perhaps the most important part of our lives: beer. Being the devoted girlfriend I am, I surprised Richard with a Valentine's gift that would benefit the both of us for years to come. That's right, Richard got a brewing kit. So with the first useful bit of science I've ever done, we got to work brewing some beer. I loved watching the massive tub of brown water evolve over the coming days to a bubbly, foamy mess. But while our special brewers yeast was doing its thing, we decided to extend our beer research to Bruges, Belgium to see how the experts do beer.

Our goal of the trip was simple...we were to drink as much good craft beer we could get our hands on. And I'd say mission accomplished! We found the oldest pub in Bruges (which dates back to 1515), visited another pub boasting over 400 different types of beer, only ate foods with beer in the recipe, and visited the local brewery, De Halve Maan (Half Moon). 

I'd like to take the time to say that Richard and I have both visited countless brewery tours in Colorado, but visiting a brewery that's over 100 years old is quite a different experience. We were told that Bruges had 128 breweries within city limits before WWI. Because copper was required during wartime, all the breweries had to give up their brewing equipment to make ammunition. During the war, Bruges was occupied, but the fields where they grew the barley and hops were not. With military checkpoints everywhere, an underground system had to be created to get the precious brewing ingredients into Bruges so brewing could continue. After the war, only one brewery remained: De Halve Maan. None of the other breweries could afford buying all new equipment to start over again. 

Another fun fact? Beer deliveries by dogs. The brewery was the only place in town with a refrigerated room. The barrels of beer would be delivered to bars in the early morning with an ice block to keep the beer cold through the day. Early morning deliveries would be done by horse-drawn carriages (convenient, because if the delivery men wanted to have a drink or 7 along their route, the horse would know the way back to the brewery and the drunk delivery man could pass out and wake up back at work). But in the heat of the day, when bars had run out of beer and demanded more, it was too hot for the horses to go back out. The solution? They built carriages that ran along the railway lines pulled by German Shepherds. Something tells me dog delivered beer tastes better, but this hypothesis is yet to be tested. 

Coming back from our beer excursion was unhappy to say the least, but luckily we had another beer excursion to look forward to. Richard and I ventured to Ramsbottom, a town outside Manchester, to visit pubs and breweries with our friends Jonny and Schadia. We tried as many beers as possible, again, and stayed in one brewery for a good 7 hours. I'd say it's been a pretty good trip and our research has turned up the best result yet: All beer is delicious and we must continue traveling and tasting. 

As our beer sits in the closet bottle conditioning, I can't wait to start experimenting with our own ingredients and seeing what we get. In the meantime, in Richard's words, we'll keep traveling for food and booze. Because what other reason is there to travel?