Archive for: July, 2011

Remembering Amy Winehouse: one from the vault

Jul 24 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

The news of Amy Winehouse's death today was one of those things that's shocking, but also not shocking, you know? And the not shocking part is what's really sad--that we at least in some way expected her to self-destruct, and yet couldn't do anything to prevent it. The whole thing is just devastating--addiction is devastating, the death of a young person is devastating, the loss of a supremely talented musician is devastating.

Four and a half  years ago, I went to Austin to attend the South by Southwest music festival, and I saw Amy Winehouse perform twice in one day. She blew me away--she was all I could talk about when I got home. While I was there, I kept a mini-blog (my only bloggy endeavor until the birth of FTTT), and today it occurred to me that it might be a good time to dig that up and share it with you. The Amy Winehouse part is at the end--feel free to skip through my ramblings on hipsters and free stuff--but I quite like some of it, and think it sets the scene pretty nicely.

March, 2007

I can't think of a more appropriate time to pretend to be a blogger than while attending the biggest convergence of the too-cool-for-school set in the history of the world. And I don't mean that in an I-am-too-cool-for-the-too-cool-for-school-set way. I like school, which I think puts me at slightly less cool than the too-cool-for-school set.

But before I get to the music, the scene, the BBQ (actually have not had bbq yet, but it's coming, I can feel it), it's worth mentioning a few moments of the trip itself, such as the wonderful old woman in the seat next to me on the plane who, with a completely straight face, asked the flight attendant if she had a spoon she could use to eat her grits. She brought grits on a plane! Who does that? And why was it not suspected that they were terrorist bomb grits? Anyhow, there is also the wonderful way it is 80 degrees here, and the wonderful way you can take a bus from the airport to 6th and Congress for FIFTY CENTS!!!! When was the last time public transportation anywhere cost fifty cents? One day while I'm here I'm going to get on the bus, put a dollar in the feeder, and say, "I'll get the person behind me, too." Hopefully, that person will be Owen Wilson.


What better way to kick-start my festival than by hitting the Rhapsody party, where hottest of hot hot indie bands, Swedes Peter Bjorn and John were playing? Wristbanded and laminated, we head into a club called Mohawk, which has a cool double-level courtyard and outdoor stage so you can watch the show, but still feel kind of loungey. There's free beer. Unsurprisingly, the place is swarming with hipsters, boys in skinny jeans and girls in hot pants and cowboy boots and for a second I wonder if I've somehow fallen into a portal back to New York, but then I am reminded that there are 2 things here that guarantee we're not in New York-- 80 degrees and free beer. I have to say that PB & J are three of the most un-Swedish looking people ever, all kind of little and brown-haired. But so good at music!


SXSW is kind of like Halloween for, hipsters.  During the day, we bounce from party to party collecting free stuff, and we don't even have to dress up or ask for it!  The swag count so far:

6 buttons (Pitchfork, Fuel TV)
3 compilation CDs (various)
4 stickers (various)
1 T-shirt (some record label)
1 set of earplugs (Dewar's)
1 condom carrier, with condoms!  (SEIU, nurses' union)
1 keychain (Puma)
1 pen (random website)
1 guitar pick (random website)
1 ping pong ball (Levi's)


First band at the Pitchfork party is the Pipettes, which, dear sciency friends, is pronounced pih-PETTES, not PIE-pettes, and who sound and look kind of Spice Girls-meets-Dreamgirls, all cute and British with motown-style choreography.

But the darling of the festival, hype-wise, has long been Amy Winehouse, a young British soul singer known not only for her killer voice, but also for her--how can I put this delicately? Er, fondness for the bottle.  She was at the top of my must-see list, but when I arrived yesterday the word was that she'd cancelled her day shows and then showed up 2 hours late for her 11 pm show.  Not a good track record, to say the least, and I pretty much gave up on being able to see her.


Around 4, S and I decide we're done with Pitchfork and ready for a change of scenery, so we make our way over to the Fader party,  stopping on the way for a delicious ice cream sundae at the Driskill Hotel, and also seeing this dude riding down the street:


The floor at Fader is covered with these little red balls

When the band that's playing ends, I glance over the shoulder of a guy looking at his schedule for the day, and OMG OMG Amy Winehouse is NEXT!!!!!  Just as S and I share a smug look, imagining the ridiculous line that must be outside while we, so savvy, are inside, a David Crosby look-alike next to us says, "I saw Amy last night, she looked like she was going to throw up the whole time".  Oh, hmm...S and I then share a worried look.  Is this going to suck and remind us how depressing alcoholism is?  Will she even show?

YES!!!!!  She shows, exactly on time, and she is so excellent.  She's glowing and smiley and doesn't seem to be experiencing any kind of bad alcohol-related feelings.  Just look at her!

But it's just a quick acoustic set, and we'd really like to see her with the full band, so we decide then and there to see her night show, too.

And she is magnificent!  She's got the Dap Kings for her band, and these 2 beautiful, beautiful men to sing backup.  I almost die from how ridiculously awesome this show is, plus I took this kick-ass photo, which I think should maybe be in a magazine or something.  Do any of you work for a magazine?


Rest in peace, Amy.


4 responses so far

Stress Gut and other ailments

Jul 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I'd like to talk for a minute about this phenomenon wherein your body, in your hour of greatest need, turns against you. It doesn't matter how many hundreds of crunches you do, how many gallons of sweat your you lose in spin class, or how many freaking salads you have for dinner.  If you are under considerable stress and you are a lady, your body goes into Arctic crisis mode and decides to horde fat around your core like you're a baby seal trapped on an iceberg.

Body, are you listening to me? It is 95-100 degrees in New York this week. MY CORE IS WARM, I ASSURE YOU. 

God, it's maddening! Doesn't my body understand that on top of the stress of leaving my job, starting a new super scary one in which I have like, 100 times more responsibility, moving to a new city, draining my bank account to sign a lease on a new apartment, and leaving my boyfriend behind (more on that in a minute), the absolute LAST thing I need is to also feel fat?

This stress gut, I am not into it. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way, because I am now also stressed about having it. What's further upsetting is that I don't imagine my stress ending any time soon. Once the move is done, I will have to actually, you know, make a lab? I get heart palpitations just thinking about it. Thank god, at least, for the maxi dress.

Speaking of the heart, mine is also very sad because J is going to stay in New York for the immediate future, until he gets a job in NJC. After much back and forth, we decided that this was the responsible thing to do--in J's field in this economy, it's pretty much crazy to quit your job when you don't have another lined up. If he moved now to NJC with me, we'd be broke and he'd be miserable and bored, and I think it would be worse on our relationship than living apart will be.

J has found a lovely long-stay hotel in which to bide his time--just like Eloise, except for the part about the hotel being the Plaza. At first I was all, live in a hotel, are you crazy?!! But when you think about it:

1. No broker fee
2. No security deposit
3. No lease = leave as soon as he gets a job
4. No utilities
5. Housekeeping!

And all of a sudden, this is clearly the perfect solution! Maximum flexibility, minimum financial commitment. And with any luck, he'll be in NJC before I know it.


23 responses so far

What a difference a year can make

Jul 11 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Now that I can finally stop stressing about being homeless in New Job City, let's get back to business, shall we?

Summer's in full swing, and if you're thinking of throwing your hat into the TT ring this fall, it's time to start working on your application packet. What's that? You'd prefer to be lounging on the dock of a lakeside cabin? Too bad! There are plenty of non-lakeside loungers who would gladly sign that offer letter instead of you.

Those of you who've been following me from the beginning know that in the '09-10 hiring season, I truly struck out looking. Dozens of applications, and not a whisper of interest from anyone, despite my Classy Institution-filled CV, letters of rec from Famous Dudes (and Dudette), and (what I naively thought was a) brilliant Research Plan. Ahem.

It was super depressing, and the whole experience made me want, at times, to throw in the towel completely. But I picked up my sad, wilted ego, regrouped, and as you well know, the '10-11 hiring cycle went much better. So, what was it that made the difference? How does a person go from gut-churning despair to confetti and revelry in the course of just one year? Here are a few things that, for those of you about to have another (or even a first) go at it, may be worth thinking about.

1. New data. In late spring/early summer '10, I got some data that turned my frown upside down. Not a whole paper's worth, but enough that it gave me a lot to think about, and even better still, another line of research I could add to my research statement. My excitement about this new avenue came through in my proposal, and made my statement much, much stronger.

2. More eyes. I cannot say this enough--get as many people as you can to give you feedback on your statements. In '10-11 I expanded my sources of criticism advice, and it made a huge difference. Honestly, a one-sentence suggestion from a new reader inspired me to restructure my whole research statement, and all of a sudden, everything just clicked.

3. More teaching. One interesting trend I noticed between the job ads of '09-10 and '10-11 is that way more of them started asking for teaching statements, even at very research-heavy R1-type places. Luckily, I had the opportunity to co-teach a course during the spring '10 semester, and I was able to add what I'd learned from that experience to my previous teaching statement, using concrete examples. For more on the teaching statement, check out Dr Zen's latest.

4. Broaden your options. As has been discussed at length by Drugmonkey/Risottoproffe, the benefits of casting a wide net when applying greatly outweigh whatever negatives you could come up with. In round 2 I expanded my application submissions to places I probably would have passed over in round 1, and it paid off immensely; when I went to interview at NJU (one of my top choices), I had an offer in hand from my first interview U, and NJU worked their butts off to get me a far superior offer as quickly as possible.

These are the biggies for me, I'd say, but I'd love to hear from others who also had better experiences this year than last. How did you effectively change your game?

7 responses so far

Re: becca

Jul 01 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

You know, when I first stumbled into this crazy bloggy world, I had no idea how things worked. I'd just started a blog myself, and then come to find there were all these other blogs! And you could say stuff to people on blogs! I left a comment or two, and I commented under the name "Becca" because, well, it was my name! What were the chances that anyone else would be commenting under MY NAME?

Now, some of you are laughing at this, and others of you are like, Right! Dr Becca, you are the only Becca on the internet! Those of you who are laughing are laughing because you know that sharp-witted, frequent commenter becca--aka @sciliz--and I are indeed very different people*, and that even though she doesn't have a blog of her own, she is perhaps even better known in certain circles of the 'sphere than I am.

For those of you who are confused, let's break it down piece by piece, starting with a little something I like to call The Probability of Being an Early Career Scientist in 2011 Named Rebecca.

Exhibit A: Rebecca's popularity, through time. Notice, if you will, that there was a HUGE spike in people choosing to name their baby girls Rebecca between approximately 1973 and 1981, a range that covers my own birth, and I'm willing to guess probably that of becca as well (or at least comes close).

So you see, given that a large proportion of science-academia blog readers are early career scientists/academics (data not shown) who were thus likely born in the 70s and 80s, it was in fact extremely likely that when I arrived late to the party, there was already someone there with my name. As further evidence, I offer the anecdote that in my small graduate program alone, there were four Rebeccas to matriculate over 3 years.

Exhibit B: We talk to each other. Both on Twitter:

And on my blog:

Do you really think I have nothing better to do with my time than create a same-named alter-ego in order to have conversations with myself?

Exhibit C: DrugMonkey demonstrates what would be a chronological paradox re: major career events, were becca and I actually one person. Back in March, I signed my offer letter with New Job University. Exciting times! DrugMonkey's been following my career ups and downs from the beginning, and he was kind enough to post some words of congrats on his Scienceblogs site. Then, just a few weeks ago, becca passed a major milestone herself--she defended her thesis! And again, DrugMonkey (though this time on Scientopia--hmm...) offers his heartfelt congrats. Chronologically, then--presuming time is linear--it would be nigh impossible for me to have completed 6 years of a post-doc, secured a tenure-track faculty position, and THEN defended my thesis. The world just doesn't work this way, people!

Finally, to toast the first becca but second Dr Becca on the internet, I offer  a cocktail. As you may have noted above, she likes the gin, and so last night I prepared one of the most classic gin cocktails in existence--the Aviation Cocktail.

The Aviation is so named because of its cloudy, sky-blue color, which it gets from the elusive Créme de Violette liquer, a lightly sweet and floral liqueur that existed, and then didn't , and now exists again. Its bottle has a cool art deco-y look to it that pleases me.

The Aviation Cocktail

3 oz gin
1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino
1/4 oz Créme de Violette
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass with a brandied cherry. Enjoy!


* that is, two very different people both created by Janet D Stemwell (maybe)...

18 responses so far