Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chug on

In trying to build off the high from yesterday, I ended up falling a bit flat. 

My long day of three planned experiments became a regular day of two experiments with one failing. I never budget for failed experiments because it seems too pessimistic...but when I don't complete all my experiments successfully, I feel really let down. The cruel, twisted nature of science at it's best. 

I'm having some problems with the intravital microscope. It's been a bit odd for some time, but I can't put my finger on what's wrong. I tweaked the amount of antibody fab fragments I'm injecting, and have focused, and re-focused the bloody thing, but the image is a wee bit more fuzzy than it should be. This worries me. Hopefully when I do some more on Saturday it will be working ok. 

Well I'm going to get geared up, play some tennis, and then make myself a nice summer salad to end the day! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The beauty of balance

After almost 2 years in this grad school business, I am getting somewhere with data collection and results! While I still have a long way to go, and really have to take full advantage of the extra year I have to take, I am quite proud of what I've accomplished so far. I am eager to power through, and have planned a busy day of experiments for tomorrow.

In addition, I had a great balanced day today. After walking to the lab in the morning, I grappled with some stats, and did my prep calculations for tomorrow's experiments. It was the first day I brought my laptop into work - why on earth have I been stowing it at home all this time? In between t-testing all the data I possibly could, I browsed through a couple great blogs and followed the Bombay bombings on twitter. I don't understand how terrorists can possibly begin justify their actions. I'm sure they once had a cause to fight for, but it's lost in the fear they spread and the innocent lives they take. Thankfully my family living in Bombay were ok.

After walking home (so managed to squeeze in 40 minutes of walking today!), I had a healthy snack and then practiced my violin. It was so relaxing, and made me realise that I really need to get on with finishing my violin exams. I only have 2 left until I'm fully qualified, but I've been dawdling over it with many excuses.

Then I Bodyrock'd out for a bit (check out: www.bodyrock.tv - it's all free!), which I had to take a bit easy since I injured my hip really badly the previous weekend. And then off to play some tennis. Half way through my legs began to seize up a bit, but it was well worth it. I feel I can have a restful sleep, and get up energised, knowing I had such a full day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can you become successful from eating right?

I believe that part of being successful is eating healthy and exercising regularly. 

I'm not saying you can't be successful without adopting these habits - au contraire - but it certainly places you in the right frame of mind. 

Eating healthy takes discipline, determination, and the ability to say "no" when a decadent dessert is right in front of your nose. Exercising regularly provides you with a routine to follow, and often allows you to realise that you can push past your limits. 

Having been an extremely unhealthy and quite overweight individual a few years ago, I certainly believe this. It hasn't always been easy to uphold, as the urge to indulge can be too much sometimes. 

I don't believe in diets - I believe in eating everything in moderation. I think if you cut out one player in the food pyramid, then you're opening yourself up for intense cravings. I tried slow-carbing earlier in the year, and became thoroughly sick of it in a week. As a girl who loves bread, the week of denying it made me crave it for a month. And I hated the idea of a complete binge day. 

Right now I'm recovering from a hip sprain injury. When I was exercising I tweaked the muscle a bit, and didn't listen to my body to slow down. I've had to take it easy the past few days, but it has really allowed me to focus on my diet. I'm trying to drink more water, pay closer attention to my stomach when it's signaling me it's full, and shush the voice that wants instant gratification. 

How does this all tie into success? I certainly don't have a chart or any experiments conducted on mice to demonstrate a correlation, but I know there's a feeling of wellness within when you eat healthy and exercise. That sense of lethargy is gone, and you can say: (for example) if I managed to exercise for 'X' minutes, I can do 'Y' task. You can attribute your success of living healthy to other areas of your life, and allowing the generated success to snowball. 

So maybe next time you are at the grocery store grab the raspberries instead of the chips, and when there's a commercial break in your favourite show, do 10 pushups! There's a little bit of success in itself already! 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Eye on the prize

Half the year has gone by...

I really couldn't tell you how the year has flown by so quickly - looking back it still seems like early January. Time has a stealthy way of sneaking past. I have decided that on this Canada day, there is no better day to refocus. Refocusing takes quite a bit of time and energy, and so I have shied away from it for a little while. Living life passively tends to come quite naturally - and the sick feeling in your stomach can be surprisingly easy to ignore. 

I've found adjusting to "adult", graduate student life a bit difficult. For so many years you are told exactly what to do, grades are the main goal, and it's very easy to mark how successful you are by a letter (and hopefully a plus)! As a grad student I've found there are no "real" markers of success. You hope for your experiments to work, you read papers, and you try attend conferences. The goal is life long learning - and the acquirement of a degree. But none of these afford instant gratification - you really have to work for them. It's not like a test that you can cram for the night before. This is the part I've had the worst time adjusting to. I lose sight of long term fulfillment, and the reality that something worthwhile takes hard work and dedication. 

I just finished watching Djokovic defeat Tsonga at Wimbledon to move into the finals for the first time, and claim the world #1 ranking. Djokovic has played amazing this year - he's been untouchable with a 47-1 winning streak. As I was watching him play, it sunk into my head that he has worked so hard and so long for this. I can certainly do that for my Masters. 

I am going to channel my energy into refocusing for the next 6 months of the year, and into pursuing passions outside of graduate school as well. I need to get rid of the girl who lounges in front of the TV after work, and find out all the wonderful things she is capable of. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Does work mean love to you?

Probably one of the most inspiring talks I've ever heard on TED.

I never heard of Gary Vaynerchuk before yesterday, but his absolute passion comes through in this video. He's definitely in your face, but to be honest, what really isn't these days? It's an in your face you need to hear!

Why aren't you doing what you love today, and what's holding you back?


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What happens when you open the Chamber of Secrets?

I believe it's important to have a handful of positive and purposeful role models in order to identify characteristics to aspire to and possibly emulate. Positive role models can make big dreams seem tangible - often enough they have put their own big dreams into reality. They provide a great way to truly know that big dreams are achievable. I believe they can also help you figure out how you want to present yourself to the world and your purpose in life. However, positive role models don't have to be larger-than-life, colossal beings of mankind...they can be as simple as your mum, your teacher, your friend. Keep in mind though, all role models come with a disclaimer that echoes Judy Garland: always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of someone else.


I have many positive role models for different aspects of my life, and I hope to pay tribute to them in this blog from time to time. Today, though, I want to mention a role model whom I believe embodies the spirit of a strong, confident, and against-all-odds type of woman: JK Rowling.

I first "met" JK Rowling in my Year 7 English class, when Ben gave a book report presentation on "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone". I had heard about Harry Potter and had already decided that I would not enjoy those kind of books - under no circumstances was I going to read them. One day though, my dad came back from a trip to England and brought with him the first two books of the series. Generally we got new books, I would grab them and devour them - since I was a much faster reader than my sister. This time though, she was having none of it, and claimed the first book. I hadn't yet mastered any semblance of patience, so I started reading the second book (which is heavily dependent on the plot line of the first book), was pretty much confused throughout the whole thing, but still loved it! I finally just took the first book from Leanne, and born was another believer in Harry Potter. I cannot even tell you the number of times I have read the Harry Potter books. I cried so much during the 7th book, because I grew up with those characters...they were my friends and it hurt so much when some of them died.



There are very few books and authors that can make you feel the way that JK Rowling does. The feeling of being completley lost in a book is something that I've experienced less and less as I've grown older - I think it's partially because I have less belief in the fantasy world, and the authors these days are just not cutting it. Take a look at Twilight! I love reading, and that automatically makes JK Rowling a heroine of mine. She's right up there with Louisa May Alcott!

However, JK Rowling is so much more than an author. She has a story of true perserverance and that showcases how far the belief in one little idea can take you. She faced tragedy through her mother's death, and the disintegration of her first marriage; when Harry Potter waltzed into her life she was poor. Under those circumstances to have the courage to write a book is truly admirable.

I remember one time she wrote a post for girls on her website. She had gone to a party, and an acquaintance that she hadn't seen for some time commented on how much weight she had lost. This completely baffled JK Rowling because she felt that it was so superficial - she had published books in that time, gotten married, and all the other woman could see was the weight loss. JK Rowling wrote in her post how she wanted more than that for her daughters - she wanted them to not be focused on their weight, but instead to focus on having accomplishments, and being creative. I think that's something that should be emphasised more in today's society.

I also love how down-to-earth JK Rowling still is, even though she's one of the richest people in Europe. She is truly inspiring, and I wish that there were many more strong women out there like her!

Friday, April 15, 2011

What ticks your clock?

I often ask myself: What gets me ticking? What inspires me to wake up in the morning and just be?! 

One would think that at 23 I would be able to answer those questions. Disappointingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, I'm not quite able to. I take comfort in the fact that people much older than me are still asking themselves those same questions, and still have no answers. I have also decided to ignore the fact that people younger than me have very convincing and well-thought-out responses. 

When I ask myself those questions words like...ambition, positivity, violin, and tennis spring to mind. Don't judge...those are just spur of the moment words, and let's keep in mind I'm writing this at 1.30 in the freaking am. Now I play the violin, well below my actual potential, and I used to play tennis. Ambition and positivity seem like good traits to have in one's life...but yea, I think it's pretty sad if that's all that comes to mind. I was hoping by now that I would have discovered my life's passion, and just go forth with that. Maybe those random words are really a signal telling me I really need to figure it out. 

I always mean to sit down and think about what gets me going in life, and then apply it. While I suppose writing a post like this one isn't really the way to address the situation, at least I'm putting it in the forefront of my brain. I especially want to figure out what gets me going as a graduate student. I've sat down a few times and kind of half-assed this...but I've never really figured out the whole thing. I have made up my mind to make a concerted effort to, at least, figure out those questions in regards to graduate school - I made the first step this morning by e-mailing a couple of profs I know for a sit down talk on graduate school advice. I hate asking for advice, so this is a big step for me - it always scares me that people will think I'm not very clever or that I've thought about asking for advice too late. It's important to face fear though. Hopefully they don't mind talking to me, and give me some useful information that I can benefit from!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Coach John Wooden - words of wisdom

A couple of weeks ago I watched a TED talk given by Coach John Wooden on the true meaning of success. I was absolutely riveted by this calm and composed 91 year old man (at the time of the talk) imparting his life’s wisdom on what it means to be successful.

For those of you who don’t know, Coach Wooden is considered to be the greatest basketball coach – as the head coach of UCLA, he won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, just one aspect of his many great achievements.

He defined success in a completely unique way: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” Now that’s a version of success that I had never heard before! To me, success always meant achieving A+’s, making lots of money, having beautiful possessions…and being happy. Except from the last part, all my visualizations of success have been oriented around material possessions and outdoing other people. John Wooden also lived by the words of his father, who said: don’t worry about whether you’re better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can become. Our society places such great emphasis on being better than others – but it’s true, what one person achieves doesn’t really affect the contribution you have made or the success that you have achieved. I struggle a lot with the constant need to compare myself and my progress against others. I continually do it at the lab, and sometimes it drives me insane, especially when I see others advance for apparently no reason – but I realize I should focus on being the best that I can be, and leave others to be the best that they can be.

I highly recommend this talk, if only to question why our society doesn’t focus more on success at a personal level.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bringing healthy back

Due to my funding dilemma and my doubts in my experimental abilities this past week, my eating habits have really taken a hit! It's easy keeping on track when at the lab, because I have set eating times, and a limited access to free food...but once I get home, it's non-stop face stuffing. Granted the food I'm eating is not unhealthy, but the sheer amount chowed down has led to a gigantic increase in calories.

I've always had this problem with emotional eating. In first year university, I was depressed for most of the year, ate like a wild boar, and subsequently put on 20 pounds.

I always find it so hard to control my emotional eating. It's usually why I only stock my place with healthy food, so if I go on a rampage, the most damage I can inflict on myself is with granola. Mmm granola.

Guess it's just a battle I have to continuously keep fighting and a problem I always have to keep my eye on. I find it's so much more difficult in the winter, because the cold can be such a downer. I can't wait for summer to come, so I can wear some shorts, walk to the lab everyday, and hit up the beach! Come soon summer!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Focusing on the positive

I've always been a silver lining type of girl, looking for the little bit of salvagable good in any given situation. However, these days I seem to focus more on the negative side of things. I worry that people will see the negative in me, so much so, that sometimes I forget about the positive.

Focusing on the negative gives license to spiraling into craziness. While everyone has a little bit of crazy in them, it can hardly be any good to let the crazy rule the roost. When this happens I find even the smallest of tasks incredibly difficult to get through, and find myself lying on my couch in a lethargic state as soon as I get home. Granted it might be all the running I'm doing these days, but it feels like there's a strange edge to the tiredness I am feeling.

I'm trying to focus more on the positive, and turn negative situations into experiences that I can learn from. There is always something to learn from everything if you look hard enough, or actually if you just simply accept the life lesson packaged inside the obviously not-so-desired-experience.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stress

I think I have to come up with a good game plan to finish my Masters, and evaluate what I haven't been doing correctly so far.

My main goal, right now, is to finish in August 2011, and to eventually publish with the data I obtain. I don't mind working after I'm done to get the paper out, but I feel that in order to be taken seriously, and my degree to really mean something, I have to publish.

I have a lot of experiments to get done, and animal work can be an absolute bitch. I wasted so much time in early January doing an experiment that wasn't working, because our previous lab tech forget to tell me a pretty important point about it. Thankfully it got sorted out...but such a waste of time, antibodies, and mice.

The main thing is that I am not entirely sure what experiments I need to do. I have been so busy, since before the Christmas break, trying to optimise the baseline experiment, that I haven't given much thought to anything else. Now it's optimised and the data is collected...now I have to figure out what to do with the blasted data, and where to go from here.

I guess I just feel really stressed, and I have a horrible tendency to shut down and literally do nothing when I feel this way. I am really going to have to power through this feeling and work through my doubts.

I have a second committee meeting at the end of March, so we'll see where I am then.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Short end of the stick

My official end date for my Masters is supposed to be August 2011, given that I started in September 2009. You're allocated 2 years to complete your thesis, from which you can decide to defend or transfer to do you PhD, at my university.

I switched supervisors in April 2010, and so have been working on my project for roughly 9 months. When I switched, they informed me that my start date would remain the same, which I was ok with, because I planned on transferring.

However, as of late, my plans to transfer have changed, and I made inquiries as to my end date. My project is has great breadth, and can definitely extend into a PhD. I also had to switch from bench work, where you could do multiple experiments in a day, to animal work. My project started from scratch and none of the techniques I learnt before applied in my new lab. So really, having a year and 5 months to complete this thesis is not the best situation!

Today, I officially found out that if I am unable to finish in August, I will have to petition my grad program to extend my Masters, have my committee agree upon it (which I don't see any reason why they wouldn't), and then pay an extra year of tuition. That's $6000+!! Also, I doubt I would receive a stipend. How am I going to pay my tuition, my rent, and everything else? Thank goodness I have savings, but they are now going to take such a hard hit!!!!! I could move back home to my parents...but then I'd have to commute, and I am a bitch when I commute.

They don't even have reduced tuition anymore for people in my circumstances...I guess because not many grad students decide to switch supervisors.

I really want to finish by August, but my project switched direction in October, and I only recently optimised the core experiment. These types of situations just fill me with doubts in my abilities, and it's so easy to imagine the worse case scenario. Guess my not-so-vibrant social life is going to take a further hit!

Sometimes I wonder if it's a waste of my youth to be stuck in the lab, in a dark room for hours, hoping to make an experiment work, when I could be enjoying myself...or at least getting more job satisfaction for the effort put in. Sadly, I think I already know the answer to that!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

As I turn 23...

Once upon a time 23 seemed so old. And now that I am 23, I feel so very young, and there's so much I want to accomplish with my life.

This year I want to focus on my goals - I want to work harder and play a bit less. I've gotten into the habit of playing a bit too much and a bit too hard sometimes. I also want to focus more on my friendships, and "think" of others more. When people do small things for me, or remember small details that make me happy, I feel so special. I really want to focus on bringing that aspect to my friendships this year, from my side.

There's also a couple things that I plan on keeping my chin up about. I'm sure God has a plan, and unfortunately though I don't know it yet, everything has always worked out so far.

I'm excited about 23, and I hope to embrace the year openly, so that it's filled with great times and no regrets!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter gloves

This morning when I checked the temperature, I did a dance of good-weather-joy in my apartment. Yesterday's freezing cold almost brought me to tears, so seeing that it was 1 degree was awesome.

Embracing the "warmth", I decided to keep my gloves stuffed into my jacket pocket. As I'm walking to my bus, music in my ears, I hear someone vaguely yelling. Now there are lots of men who yell/honk on the streets, so I tend to ignore them.  A little while later I realised I lost my gloves...and wandered back to find them. I might have let them go, but they were a purchase of this winter, and I have a tendency to lose gloves.

Eventually, I found them, in two separate snow banks...3 blocks apart. There is no way that they fell out of my pocket into two snowbanks, that were a little off my walking route. Guess that man was yelling at me about my gloves, and then decided to have some fun with them.

Crazy. And not appreciated.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Paradoxical emotions

Yesterday, when coming back from the senior centre my nana visits everyday, she slipped in my aunt's driveway and fractured her neck.

While this is horrible beyond belief, thank God she wasn't paralysed. It could have been so much worse.

For some reason though, my aunt kept this under wraps for 4 hours! Simple ridiculous! What if something happened in those 4 hours...and the rest of us only found out too late...

Anyways, she's a tough lady. She's of the old stock, and I know she'll make it through.

I am just so worried. It sucks that I am here, so far away, and that everyone else is with her.

And while one half of my brain is consumed with that, the other is overjoyed that my experiment worked in it's entirety TWICE yesterday.

I was so happy at the lab that I did a little dance, and actually wanted to make out with the microscope. The frustration and anxiety of troubleshooting is definitely worth the pleasure of seeing your efforts result in some actual results!! This makes going to the lab exciting, and I can't wait to go back and be more productive!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Don't start celebrating yet!

I'm finally collecting some data for my experiment! Great start to the New Year, I'd say. I worked really hard at hammering out some of the kinks of the experiment this past week, and am even going in today - on a much treasured Saturday - to stare into the microscopes, with the goal of getting some valuable data.

I have been waiting, waiting, and then waiting some more, to collect data. And now I am finally here! Although, this has now opened up a whole new can of worms. I thought that when I pushed past the learning/developing the experimental technique, to actually collecting data, my life problems would be solved. This is where science goes - ah hah, trapped you, you idiot!

Logically, you would think that when analysing data, inputting A and B to get C would give you C. But no. A and B sometimes gives you C (awesome), sometimes D (kind of makes sense), and sometimes even Z (what the fuck)! What should make sense, doesn't, at all.

Now I have to figure out how to "mould" my data to tell the story I want it to tell.

Ahh science, always one leap ahead of me!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

One of the lucky ones

A few years ago my dad went for his annual physical. He had planned to skip it, just like he did the previous year, but for some reason my mum got on his back to go.

The doctor found he had abnormal prostrate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, and after a few more tests, he was diagnosed with stage 1 prostrate cancer. He underwent a prosectomy, and radiation, and was pronounced cancer free within a year or so.

Today, he called me to say he visited the oncologist. My heart stopped for a second because I thought he was going to tell me it was back...there are millions of stories of what a resilient bastard cancer can be, and why should this be any different? However, it was just to tell me that his PSA levels are still within the normal range. I can't help but think how my dad is truly one of the lucky ones, and how thankful I am for that.