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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Have I Mentioned I'm Reading a Book About the Pilgrims? SFN 2006

So I've returned from Atlanta, site of the big giant annual neuroscience convention. The above quote is from my advisor, who managed to drop some new little fact about the Pilgrims into every single conversation she had at the convention. Even the ones about science. Apparently, the lady was shocked to hear that the Pilgrims weren't quite as Puritan as we were led to believe. But that's because she didn't have AP History with Mr. Woolson, who taught us all about the sordid underbelly of our glorious nation. Duty sheep* included.

First off, I suppose my real introduction to the south came on the plane when the woman sitting next to me asked how I'd be getting to my hotel from the airport. I mentioned that I was thinking of the train at 10:30 that evening and she shot me a look of horror. "You know, the train stations get awful dark at night" she said in her accent. Then her voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper as she added, "and I don't mean the lights. It is full of the blacks." I did take a shuttle, but that had more to do with fear of getting lost. Because we don't have black people in Philly. Yep.

The hotel we all stayed at was in Buckhead, where they put all the student hotels. It is miles from downtown (and the convention center) and while we;d heard that Buckhead was a cool neighborhood with bars and food and shopping and such...not so much. There were bars, but they were frat boy-laden, and the restaurants were way spendy, and all the shopping was contained in strip malls. Swanky strip malls, sure, but as far as I'm concerned real cities don't have strip malls.

As for the actual meeting stuff, my poster went over well enough. I didn't learn too much interesting new science. I got two casual postdoc offers, but there's no way in hell I'm going to do a postdoc because I am tired of doing science. So I made a few contacts in the science writing arena. And I may have a possible part-time editing gig with a journal, if Elsevier comes through with some money (ha!). At least I have a Get Out Of Academic Science Tentative Game Plan now. There was also a meeting with the heads of a bunch of the NIH institutes, wherein they pretended that the funding situation isn't abysmal and then got politely contradicted by the assembled scientists who happen to know that, in fact, the funding situation sucks. About the only productive advice given by an NIH institute person was to vote...I think there may have been three Republicans at the entire conference. Something about immersing oneself in logic and experiments makes it difficult to believe in voodoo economics, I suppose.

I also got to spend some time with Rachel, poor thing is still in South Carolina and subject to the whims of a certain selfish bubble-dwelling PI. I didn't actually do to much drinking in Atlanta as I got sick. Boo airplane germs! But I did get free lab dinner and drinks with my advisor, who can handle about a glass and a half of wine before the dirt starts coming out.

But when I got back, I had a lovely skein of sock yarn I ordered from Alison's new store and a copy of Bend Over Boyfriend to review (um, did I neglect to mention that I've been reviewing allegedly woman-friendly p*rn lately?). Happy return home to me! Now I spend my mornings monitoring the estrous cycle of my rats. Every morning. It involves taking samples of vaginal cells and may actually be less fun for me than it is to them. See, science isn't all posters and meetings! It is rat vaginas too! See why I want out of the field yet?

*For those of you who did not experience the joy of AP with Mr. Woolson, we read a lot of primary documents from the colonial era, many of which made alarmingly casual mention of the, um, sexual use of the young male indentured servants brought here. They were referred to as "duty boys" and then he pointed out a casual mention of the use of sheep for, um, release by certain lonely settlers. Hence duty sheep. And why I love America.

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Blogger Evan said...

At a party once I was talking with a friend in Biomedical Engineering. I asked her what precisely she does, and without missing a beat she answered, "I douche mice." And that was when I fell thoroughly out of love with this post-Bayh/Dole pharmaceutical-academic industrial complex.

Duty sheep. Man that was 12 years ago. But reading that made my day. I now return to my regular programming, ie. Austrian erotic fiction.

3:28 PM  
Blogger The Retropolitan said...

I never had Woolson.

No duty sheep for me.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Sir Oolius said...

A ventriloquist finishes his last show in Dallas, Texas, and he and his agent decide to drive to Los Angeles where his next show will be. They drive for several hours through Texas and across most of New Mexico. It is a hot day (103 F.) and the car air conditioner dies. They are so thirsty. The agent sees a small building up on a mesa, and says "Why don't we see if we can get a cool drink there." "Good idea," says the ventriloquist, and off they drive to the building. It is a Navajo Indian hogan, and an old Indian sits in the shade in front. "May we have some water?" asks the agent. "Water there," replies the Navajo. The two drink some water, and the ventriloquist whispers to his agent "I'm going to have some fun with the old Indian." He walks up to the Navajo and says "Hey, Chief, that's a nice looking dog you have. Is it OK if I talk to him?" The Navajo squints at the ventriloquist and says "Dog no talk." The ventriloquist winks and says to the dog "Hi, pup. You look nice and cool sitting in the shade, what is it like to live with this old Indian fellow?" He then throws his voice and it sounds as if the dog replies "Oh, the old fellow is so good to me. He feeds and waters me every day and pets me at night and lets me sleep in the hogan when it is cold." Well the Indian's eyes grow wide with shock as he hears the dog talk. The ventriloquist winks at his agent and turns to the old Indian "Hey, Chief, that's a nice looking horse, mind if I talk to him?" Well, the Indian dubiously replies "Horse no talk." The man says "Hi, horse. I see you have a nice shaded corral. Do you like living with the Old Navajo here?" Throwing his voice it seems as though the horse replies "Neighhh, the old fellow really takes good care of me. He gives me a warm blanket in winter, and he even gives me oats when he has enough money." The old Navajo's eyes almost pop out of his head with amazement at this. "Well, Chief" says the ventriloquist, "that's a nice looking herd of sheep you have there. Mind if I talk to them." The old Navajo looks up and immediately replies "Sheep lie."

11:02 AM  
Blogger Miss13 said...

I read the whole thing and all i can say is I had no idea anyone was ever to swab a rat's vagina for ANY REASON and I cant get that visual out of my head. I may be scarred forever...

I didnt know you were over the whole thing, I must admit some shock !

6:43 PM  
Blogger Catie said...

I found you via ravelry and SFN2007 and am slowly going back through your posts. I can sympathize with not liking the science you are doing. I'm finishing my master's thesis and getting out of animal research and going to cognitive psych (hopefully, fingers crossed).

And duty sheep? I learned something new today

11:09 PM  

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